Canadian health officials are recommending Manitobans have their homes tested for radon – an odourless, invisible gas that is known to cause cancer.

Health Canada recently found that one in five Manitoban homes have high levels of radon, one of the highest rates in the country.

Gary Brownstone lost his brother-in-law to lung cancer in October. The 55-year-old man died just six months after he was diagnosed with the disease.

 “We were all shocked because he never smoked a cigarette in his life,” said Brownstone. “You start getting curious about what other factors might have contributed to that."

Health Canada estimates that 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada are attributed to indoor radon exposure.

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, next to tobacco smoking.

Winnipegger Deb Campbell is heeding Health Canada’s warning and having her River Heights home tested.

“A generation ago our parents used to smoke in the house, so I wondered about that,” said Campbell. “Learning about radon was new to me. It was a bit of a surprise.”

Radon can seep through cracks in a home’s foundation, through a sump pump or holes surrounding a pipe.

New and old homes are at risk because radon is in the soil beneath the ground.

It’s created naturally when uranium breaks down underground. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless.

Sheila McIntosh of the Lung Association of Manitoba said everyone should test their homes.

“It just increases your risk, and it’s like anything else – if you have an increased risk and you know, you can do something about it,” said McIntosh.

At-home kits are available to test for radon and are placed in a home’s basement for three months before being sent to a laboratory.

“We’re not talking short-term, run out of the house kind of scary here,” said Sandy Hutchinson of Health Canada. “This is something that’s a long-term health risk. You have time to take a test, figure it out and take steps to remediate.”

Officials said those steps including sealing up cracks where the radon is seeping in or installing a special pipe to filter it out of a home.