'Odorless, colorless gas:' Health officials encourage Wisconsin residents to test their homes for radon

A radon test kit

WAUKESHA -- Even if you don't light up a cigarette, your body could still be suffering as though you had. January is Radon Awareness Month, and there's no better time to test your home for the common radioactive gas prevalent throughout southeast Wisconsin.

"It's an odorless, colorless gas," said Skylar Behm, environmental health supervisor for Waukesha County.

Undetectable to humans, radon is only found with the use of a testing kit.

"They are pretty simple. You put them out on a table or night stand and leave them there," said Behm. "The air, radon laced, will go through and capture the radiation, and the lab will read the results."

Behm urged Waukesha County residents to check their homes this time of year.

"It's winter and your house is sealed up. You have your furnace on. You have your highest levels of radon this time of year," said Behm. "The gas really gets concentrated in the home."

The gas enters through basement floors and walls, and about half of the homes in southeast Wisconsin have high radon levels.

"The recommended action level is if you are at four pCi/L or greater. Any time you are four or above, we recommend installing a mitigation system," said Behm.

Paul Nicholson installs mitigation systems often. He works in the radon measurement and elimination industry.

"The average is about 400 systems per year," said Nicholson.

Radon Measurement Elimination Services officials were called to a home with alarming levels.

A radon reduction system in use

"About 144 pCi/L," said Nicholson. "That would equate, if someone were to spend 18 hours in a house per day -- smoking 10-and-a-half cigarettes per hour and about 20 chest X-rays of exposure."

For the sake of your family, you're encouraged to pick up a test kit.

They cost around $10 to $30, which pales in comparison to your health -- which is priceless. Test kits are available either through the county and health department at a discounted rate, or at your local hardware store.