POCATELLO, Idaho - This week the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is issuing a statement warning Idahoans about a dangerous gas that may be in their homes - and most people don't even realize it.
The department said 40 percent of homes throughout the state who tested for radon gas, showed high levels of exposure.
The department's Radon Program manager Jim Faust said this is a growing problem people need to be made aware of.
"Radon is definitely a big problem because it's so prevalent," Faust said in a statement released on Tuesday. "The good news is that it is a fixable problem. Every home in Idaho should be tested so you can protect yourself and your family."
In comparison to today's 40-percent exposure rate, Southeastern Idaho Public Health's health education specialist Traci Lambson said roughly five years ago, one in every three homes tested for the gas showed high levels of it.
Here's how the health department breaks it down by region:
Blackfoot and Idaho Falls - 41%
Pocatello - 50%
Rexburg - 57%
Boise - 36%
Mountain Home - 48%
McCall - 32%
Challis - 58%
Ron Hansen is both the owner and inspector with Pillar to Post, one of the few certified inspection companies in the Bannock County region.
He said long exposure to the deadly gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, following smoking.
"It's colorless, odorless, and tasteless," Hansen said. "So the only way to know whether you have radon is to test for it."
Hansen said radon gas is given-off naturally as uranium decomposes.
He said when uranium decomposes, it takes 79,000 years and gives-off an alpha particle called radium. Radium's lifespan lasts roughly 1,800 years and gives-off yet another alpha particle which becomes radon gas which has a lifespan of roughly three-and-a-half days. Once that particle enters the lungs, it starts causing damage.
"It's not preventable because, like I said, it's naturally occurring in the atmosphere...so it's around us everywhere. The only thing you can do if you have it in your home, is to re-mediate it," Hansen added.
He said when this happens, opening your doors and windows can actually do more harm than good.
"Because if you open a window, it draws the air in, the air pressure changes in the home, and so it can then actually bring more gas into the home."
He said you should call a mitigation company, which can come in and suction the dangerous gas out of your home.
To find out more about radon gas and what you should do if you think you would like to get your home tested, visit this link here.
Both Lambson and Faust said you can also call the Idaho CareLine at 211 to order your own test kit.