ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

You can’t see, smell, or taste it, but an elevated radon level in your home may be affecting the health of your family.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released in rock, soil and water from the natural decay of uranium.

While levels in outdoor air pose a relatively low threat to human health, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels inside buildings.

If you smoke, 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.

You can avoid this health hazard by taking simple steps to test your home for radon.

In Pennsylvania, about 40% of homes have radon present at elevated levels, according to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

That's why the Allentown Health Bureau, in cooperation with the American Lung Association and the Pa Department of Environmental Protection, is offering free radon test kits to Lehigh Valley residents who have never tested radon in their homes.

The heating season is the best time to test because your home is closed and radon levels will likely be at their 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 city officials, homes in the Allentown area register indoor radon levels from 0.1 pCi/L to well over 200 pCi/L. But just because your neighbor’s house has a low radon level does not mean that your house will also be low.

About 2,900 non-smokers die each year of lung cancer caused by radon.

To obtain a free radon test kit, visit an Allentown Health Bureau office, or to saving time, print and complete the radon test kit coupon found on the City of Allentown website then bring it to one of the Health Bureau’s locations:

City Hall at 435 Hamilton St., or Alliance Hall, 245 N 6th St., Allentown.

Supplies are limited, and are on a first come, first served basis. Call ahead at 610-437-7759 to be sure there are test kits available.