Radon is an ongoing health threat in Minnesota. Add in COVID-19 and the threat of radon exposure is compounded because we are spending more time in our homes.

As you know, radon is a colorless and odorless gas that comes from the soil. The gas can accumulate in the air we breathe. Radon gas decays into fine particles that are radioactive. When inhaled these fine particles can damage our lungs.

Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium and radium, found in rocks and soil. Uranium breaks down to radium, and radium eventually decays into the gas radon. Radon gas is in the soil and common throughout Minnesota. Because soil is porous, radon moves up from the soil and into the home. It can then accumulate in the air and become a health concern.

The average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the average U.S. radon level. This is due to our geology and how our homes are operated. Minnesota homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Minnesota, more than two in five homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk.

Exposure to radon over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer. It is estimated that 21,000 people die each year in the United States from lung cancer due to radon exposure. A radon test is the only way to know if and how much radon is in your home. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that all Minnesota homes be tested for radon and then retested every 2-5 years (save your test results).

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Test after you make changes to the foundation, heating, cooling or ventilation. Consider testing before a major remodeling project to determine if radon mitigation should be added into the project. Retest after adding a radon mitigation system to make sure it is working properly.

Short term radon test kits provide a quick, one-week measurement to determine if a radon is present in the home. The short term test is usually a good first step. The long-term kit provides a more accurate measurement of radon levels in the home and takes 90 days to complete.

The Minnesota Department of Health website has complete radon information and a link to order test kits: health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/radon/radontestresults.html

Both short and long term radon test kits are also available from Horizon Public Health for a fee.

Bottom line, COVID and radon do have something in common, your health and the fact that spending more time in your home during the pandemic increases your risk of being exposed to radon.

Call Horizon Public Health at 1-800-450-4177 for more information about radon or to purchase a kit.

Marcia Schroeder is a registered nurse with Horizon Public Health, which serves five counties, including Douglas County. Contact Schroeder at marcias@horizonph.org.