Drought conditions could increase your risk for cancer

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The drought has been devastating for the Tennessee Valley, whether it's wildfires sparking up around us, dry soil cracking home foundations, or farmer's losing their harvest - but that's not the only impact.

A dangerous gas that causes cancer could be concentrated in higher volumes inside your home because of the drought.

Radon is odorless, tasteless and radioactive, and to make things worse, it's more prevalent around this area. "From the reports I see, 1 in every 3-4 houses has elevated levels of radon," says Joey Price, a Radon Mitigation Expert.

The danger of radon originates below our feet. "You have a lot of caves in this area, which have a lot of radon gases in it," says Price.

Moist soil serves as a natural barrier to a lot of radon gas rising up into our homes, but with rainfall practically non-existent, the flow of gas is much more unrestricted. "A lot of these cracks and crevices open up. It just expels radon gases up from the ground," he says.

Price says he's seen a big increase in business compared to last year. "I do lean to that for the drought," he says.

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Price says that's also because cold weather can increase a home's potential radon levels. "That's why if someone has tested during the summertime, it's recommended to test again during the winter time. That would give you your worst case scenario," says Price.

The only way to know if your home might be affected is to do a test. "You can get test kits from the county extension office for $10," he says.

If the results come back with unsafe levels, companies like Radon Solutions and Services can install a mitigation system. "There's a radon fan, and what it does. It runs 24/7. It's pulling all the radon gas out, as it exhausts out, it exhausts it out the roof," he says.

While radon may be invisible to your eye, the carcinogen can cause serious harm. The CDC says it's a leading cause of lung cancer. "You breathe this in, it damages the cells in your lung," says Price.

It's yet another reason why rain in the forecast could be welcome news indeed. "21,000 people die each year of radon induced cancer," says Price.

There is no requirement in Madison County for homes to have a radon mitigator installed, but Joey Price says many builders in the last few years have decided to include that type of system in when they construct a new house.

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