The grass is brown, the ground is dry and dusty, and the TV weather guy keeps getting really excited whenever there’s a 10% chance of rain in the forecast. We’re officially in an extreme drought. You know this weather isn’t good for your lawn, but did you know it could also be increasing the level of a harmful gas in your home? As the US Geological Survey explains, cracked dry soil allows radon gas to pass through it more easily, which means even more of it than usual can travel up through the soil and collect inside your house.

Radon gas comes from decaying uranium ore deep within the earth. It has no taste or smell, so you won’t be able to tell whether it’s in your home without testing specifically for it. Because it’s radioactive, radon is a powerful carcinogen. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, causing almost 3000 cases of lung cancer in non-smokers every year. Research also shows that exposure to radon increases smokers’ chances of developing lung cancer. All told, the EPA estimates there are approximately 21,000 cases of radon-related lung cancer per year.

Here in the Tennessee Valley, we have a particularly high risk of radon exposure due to the many caves and fissures in the earth where radon gas can collect and easily pass through to the surface soil. The Alabama Department of Public Health rates most of the counties of North Alabama as having “high potential” for radon exposure. Studies by the ADPH have even found that 35% of homes in Madison County have dangerous levels of radon! With the extreme drought we’re currently in, that number could go even higher.

What can you do to protect your family from this dangerous carcinogen? First of all, you can purchase an easy to use radon test for about $10 from the county extension office or for about $20 from a local home improvement store. We also suggest the Carrier Carbon Monoxide Detector . If the test shows the presence of radon in your home, contact a licensed radon mitigation service. They can install a ventilation system that will remove the radon from your home. Properly installed systems can reduce radon levels by up to 99%.

Radon gas is an invisible killer but a very preventable one. Keep it from harming your family by testing your home today.