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Is a killer lurking in your home?

As heating season ramps up, now is the best time to test your home for radon.

The state department of health reports that more than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas.

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Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, naturally occurring, radioactive gas and reportedly a persistent health risk in Minnesota.

Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Douglas County Public Health Nurse Supervisor Jane Michaels said, “While radon is present everywhere, the greatest exposure is where it can concentrate and where you spend most of your time, indoors at your home, especially during the cold months when the windows are all closed. This risk for lung cancer is entirely preventable through awareness and testing. All homes should be tested, whether they are old, new, with or without a basement.”

Radium gas is produced during the decay of uranium in rock and soil. From the ground it migrates through foundations, cracks and small openings and concentrates inside buildings. It can enter through areas like porous cinderblocks, cracks in foundation, water supply, a floor drain and slab joints.

Radon detection tests are available at local hardware stores or by calling Douglas County Public Health at (320) 763-6018.

The public health department has short-term kits for $5 and long-term kits for $12 available for testing your home.

Michaels said, so far in 2013, approximately 225 kits were sold by Douglas County Public Health.

In Minnesota, two out of five homes have a radon level that pose a significant health risk, Michaels said.

If radon is detected in your home, there are solutions. A radon mitigation contractor can install a system to reduce radon levels or prevent it from entering a living space.

A new law, the Minnesota Radon Awareness Act, goes into effect January 1, 2014 and will require specific and detailed radon disclosure and notification during most home sales.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133