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The new year brings a focus on good health and progress. Nowhere is emphasis more important than the home, where so many spend so much of their time.

Your home, however, may be causing you harm and you don’t even know it.

The No. 2 cause of lung cancer in the United States is radon gas. The Environmental Protection Agency reports radon causes more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year. The World Health Organization states that as many as 14 percent of the lung cancer cases in many countries are caused by exposure to radon.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas can build up to unsafe levels in any home. That is why EPA starts every new year encouraging Americans to get their homes tested for radon.

Millions of homes in the United States have elevated levels of radon.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and it finds its way into homes through cracks and holes in the foundation, construction joints and plumbing fixtures. Any home can have a radon problem, and elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in almost every county of South Carolina.

"The only way to know if a home has high radon levels is to perform a test," said Rhonda Thompson, DHEC's Bureau of Air Quality Chief. "Two homes right next to each other can have different radon levels."

DHEC has a limited number of free home radon kits that residents can use to test their homes. Test kits also may be purchased for about $15 from the National Radon Program.

Residents should closely follow the directions to receive accurate results. If the test kit indicates high levels of radon, the EPA recommends contacting a certified radon mitigation provider to review methods for preventing radon from entering a home.

"South Carolina has nationally certified radon professionals who can measure radon levels and help fix homes with elevated radon levels," said Leslie Coolidge, DHEC's South Carolina Radon Program Coordinator. "We provide a list of these radon professionals on the DHEC website."

To request a free home test kit and to learn more about radon, visit scdhec.gov/radon. To purchase a test kit from the National Radon Program, visitsosradon.org or call 1-800-767-7236.

If a home hasn’t been tested for radon in the past two years, it’s time to test. Repeating the good news: Radon testing is easy and inexpensive. Homes with elevated radon levels can be fixed using current radon-remediation technology.

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