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Unseen Threat: Potentially Deadly Radon Gas is Odorless, Invisible

MANITOWOC — Eric Zabel and his family are breathing a little easier now that they know the three-bedroom ranch in Cato they bought about four years ago is free of radon gas.

Prior to buying their home, they had no idea of radon's existence or its negative health effects, Zabel said. They had radon levels tested at the suggestion of their home inspector and real estate agent.

"We bought our house in November of '06 and one of the contingencies on the offer to purchase was that it pass the radon test, so for the couple of hundred dollars that it cost to do that test, we thought it was worth it financially and, most importantly, for our health," he said.

Zabel, 33, and his wife, Claire, were particularly concerned about the health of their daughter, Julia, now 4, who was a few months old at the time, he said. They have since added Courtney, 15 months, and Jeffery, 1 month.

The home didn't pass the test. It was found to have elevated levels of radon, he said.

Radon Test Results in Wisconsin Area Raise Red Flags

The results of radon testing in the Fox Valley are in — and it's not good news, especially in the Neenah-Menasha area.

The latest testing data compiled by the state Department of Health Services suggests nearly half the homes in Winnebago, Outagamie, Waupaca and Calumet counties contain radon concentrations surpassing the federal safety standard.

The readings reported in homes in Winnebago and Waupaca counties were off the charts, registering radon concentrations some 60 times higher than what the EPA deems safe.

David Daniels, the owner of Radon Specialists of Wisconsin in Neenah, knows that some residents question the prevalence of radon contamination in and near their homes. But he said that should not deter them from testing radon levels in their homes, using inexpensive and widely available radon test kits.

Unsafe Levels of Toxic Radon Gas Found in half of Households in Fox Cities, WI

Unsafe Levels of Toxic Radon Gas Found in half of Households in Fox Cities, WI

NEENAH — What Fox Cities-area homeowners don't know about radon, an invisible, cancer-causing gas, could hurt them and their families down the road.

That's particularly true in this four-county region, where about one of every two homes tested for radon last year produced results exceeding federal safety guidelines.

David Daniels, the owner of Radon Specialists of Wisconsin in Neenah, understands if some Fox Valley residents question the prevalence of radon contamination in and near their homes. But he said that should not deter them from testing radon levels in their homes, using inexpensive and widely available radon test kits.

Radon's invisibility and the lack of state laws recognizing its role in causing lung cancer tend to undermine knowledge and acceptance of a radon "epidemic" in the Fox Valley, Daniels said. He argues the health risks posed by radon exposure probably is much greater here than even 2009 data compiled by the state and local health departments implies.