The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Radon Education Program is offering free radon test kits to Nevadans. Free test kits are available at the Mineral County Cooperative Extension office, 205 South A St., in Hawthorne, through the end of February.

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. It comes from the ground and can accumulate in homes, raising the risk of lung cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 21,000 Americans die each year from radon-caused lung cancer, killing more people than secondhand smoke, drunk driving, falls in the home, drowning or house fires.

In Nevada, one in four homes tested show radon concentrations at or above the EPA action level. But in Mineral County, 41 percent of tested homes had elevated concentrations. Hawthorne has a higher radon potential of 44 percent. In support of Cooperative Extension’s radon education efforts, the Mineral County Commissioners signed a proclamation in December recognizing January as National Radon Action Month.

According to experts, living in a home with radon concentrations at the action level poses as much risk of developing lung cancer as smoking about half a pack of cigarettes a day.

The risk of radon-caused lung cancer can be reduced. A simple three-day test can determine if a house has a radon problem, and winter is an ideal time to test a home for radon. If radon problems are found, they can be fixed.