By Melissa DeRoche Central Michigan District Health Department OSCEOLA COUNTY\u00a0\u2014\u00a0January is Radon Awareness month and the Central Michigan District Health Department\u00a0invites you and your family to join others in taking the "test" for radon in your home. Radon is a\u00a0Class A carcinogen (cancer-causing) radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it\u00a0may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air which contains radon, you increase your risk\u00a0of getting lung cancer. In fact, the the Surgeon General says radon is the leading cause of lung\u00a0cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America. About 22,000 Americans will die each year of radon-related lung cancer. More than 600 of these people will reside in Michigan. If you smoke and your\u00a0home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas resulting from the natural breakdown of\u00a0uranium. Most soils contain varying amounts of uranium. Radon in soil, groundwater or building\u00a0materials enters working and living spaces and begins to disintegrate into its decay product. This\u00a0decay product can attach to the surface of aerosols, dusts and smoke particles. These particles then\u00a0may be inhaled, whereby becoming deeply lodged or trapped in the lungs. Radon and its decay products are more concentrated in confined air spaces. "For this\u00a0reason, radon levels are typically higher in homes during the winter months when doors and\u00a0windows are closed more often and air circulation is poor, so this is the best time of year to test,"\u00a0said\u00a0Michelle Patton,\u00a0director of environmental health services. Radon is a national environmental health problem. Elevated radon levels have been\u00a0discovered in virtually every state. The EPA estimates that as many as eight million homes throughout\u00a0the country have elevated levels of radon. State surveys to date show that one out of eight homes have\u00a0elevated radon levels. Indoor radon has been judged to be the most serious environmental cancer-causing agent to which the general public is exposed and which the EPA must address. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to\u00a0radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be\u00a0more vulnerable to radiation damage. Testing is the only way to know your homes radon levels. Contrary to popular belief, "radon\u00a0exposure does not cause headaches, nausea, fatigue or skin rashes like other environmental toxins,"\u00a0Patton said. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It\u00a0typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface and then it is too late. The U.S.\u00a0Environmental Protection Agency, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American\u00a0Medical Association and National Safety Council all recommend testing your home for radon.\u00a0Radon tests are easy to do and are available at any local health department. During the\u00a0month of January, test kits will be discounted to $5 or free with a donation of a\u00a0nonperishable food item. These items will be donated to local food pantries that have supplies\u00a0depleted during the holiday season. "It\u2019s just our way of doing our part to help our neighbors who\u00a0are experiencing tough times, especially after the holidays," Patton added. More general radon information is available by calling the Central Michigan District Health\u00a0Department or visiting the Environmental Protection Agency website at\u00a0epa.gov\/radon\/index.html or michigan.gov\/deq.