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Is danger lurking in your home?

It is odorless, colorless and tasteless.

It can cause lung cancer.

And every home in Minnesota should be tested every two to five years for it.

What is it? It's radon and it is a growing health concern.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 8 million homes in the United States have a radon problem and the toxic gas has claimed the lives of more than 20,000 Americans in 2010 - more than fires and carbon monoxide combined.

Health officials at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) feel that testing is such an important way to prevent exposure to radon that they are offering a limited number of low-cost kits to Minnesota homeowners.

MDH sent about 3,500 radon kits to 30 local public health agencies, including Douglas County.

Todd Appel, Douglas County sanitarian, said that kits are available at the Douglas County Public Health office. He noted that there are two types of kits available.

The short-term kit is $5 and is the kit homeowners should start with, said Appel. It takes anywhere from three to five days for results to come back.

The long-term kit is available for $12 and should be used if the short-term kit indicates levels of radon, according to Appel. He said these results take a little longer; possibly up to 10 days.

The public health office, located at 725 Elm Street, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Once a test is performed, if the results indicate more than 4 picocuries per liter (PiC/L), MDH officials said homeowners should consider having a radon mitigation system installed.

MDH estimates that one in three existing Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose a large health risk over many years of exposure. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Radon exposure, however, is a preventable health threat for many Minnesotans. Besides public health offices around the state, radon kits can be purchased at hardware stores or directly from radon testing laboratories.

Tests should be done in the lowest level of a home that is frequently occupied. Tests should not be done in laundry or utility rooms, kitchens or bathrooms.

For more information, contact Appel at (320) 763-4437, call the Minnesota Department of Health Indoor Air Unit at 1-800-798-9050 or visit the MDH radon website at


The World Health Organization has released their mortality statistics for 2009 and a startling statistic about in-home causes of death surfaced.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon gas causes more than 20,000 deaths annually in the United States. To put that into perspective, radon caused more deaths in 2009 than drunk driving, fires and carbon monoxide.

The EPA is urging the U.S. media to assist in creating awareness of this silent killer by declaring January National Radon Awareness Month.

Radon problems have been detected in almost every county in the United States. The surgeon general and American Lung Association have also taken action to help prevent these needless deaths by recommending that all homes in the U.S. be tested regardless of geographic location or foundation type.