Staff Photo by Kathleen Greeson / A radon test kit is shown in this file photo.

Does your home contain a harmful amount of radon? The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is offering free radon test kits to Tennessee residents this month to assess the risk.

According to TDEC statistics, one in five homes in Tennessee tests high for radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas that threatens people's health when it is trapped in confined spaces such as homes. It is produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soils. The only way to know if it is in a home is to test for it.

"We hope Tennesseans will take advantage of the offer of free test kits," said Dr. Kendra Abkowitz, director of the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices at TDEC. "We want people to be aware of the potential for radon in their homes, that testing for it is free and easy, and that there are ways they can mitigate it if they find they have a radon problem."

The TDEC Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices manages the TN Radon program, a statewide awareness and education initiative, where the goal is to educate the public about the risk of radon exposure in indoor environments.

Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed January as Radon Action Month in Tennessee, mirroring a national observance endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon does not generally present a health risk outdoors because it is diluted in the open air. Radon can, however, build up to dangerous levels inside a house. A house can act like a vacuum, drawing radon through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon may also be present in well water and can be released in a home when the water is used for showering and other household activity.

To request a free test kit or for more information, click here or call 1-800-232-1139.

There is a limit of one kit per household. Postage is prepaid. Due to the high volume of requests for radon test kits during National Radon Action Month, processing time for the free kits is four to six weeks.

Radon test kits are also available at hardware stores for about $15.

Contact Lisa Denton at