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The Allentown Health Bureau is offering free radon test kits to Lehigh Valley residents.

The program is in cooperation with the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the American Lung Association. Those who have never completed a prior radon test in their home are eligible for the program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked, making radon the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

“But because radon is colorless and odorless,” says Allentown Health Bureau director Vicky Kistler, “people tend to ignore the possible health effects and downplay the possibility that there might be a silent killer in their homes.”

To obtain a free radon test kit, visit an Allentown Health Bureau office at City Hall at 435 Hamilton Street or Alliance Hall, 245 N. 6th Street, Allentown. Supplies are limited and are on a first come, first served basis, one per household. Please call ahead at 610-437-7759 to be sure there are test kits available. Test results are reported directly to the resident doing the test.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released in rock, soil and water from the natural decay of uranium. While outdoor air levels pose a relatively low threat to human health, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels inside buildings. You can’t see, smell, or taste it, but an elevated radon level in your home may be affecting the health of your family. And if you are a smoker, your risk is even greater.

One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided.

According to the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, about 40 percent of homes in Pennsylvania have radon present at elevated levels. The heating season is the best time to test because your home is closed, and radon will likely be at its highest concentration. The EPA recommends that you test your home every two years or whenever you change your living patterns in your home.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), a measurement of radioactivity. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that homes with radon levels at 4 pCi/L or higher should be fixed to reduce radon levels. The average indoor air concentration in Pennsylvania basements is 7.1 pCi/l and is 3.6 pCi/L on the first floor.

According to data collected by the PA Department of Environmental Resources, indoor radon levels range from 0.1 pCi/L to well over 500 pCi/L in Allentown area zip codes. But just because your neighbor’s house has a low radon level does not mean that the level in your house will also be low.