ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

January is ideal time to test home for radon, health officials say

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and nearly one in three Minnesota homes contain potentially harmful levels of the tasteless, odorless gas that occurs naturally in rock and soils. The only way to know for sure if your ...

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and nearly one in three Minnesota homes contain potentially harmful levels of the tasteless, odorless gas that occurs naturally in rock and soils. The only way to know for sure if your home has it is to test for it, say Minnesota health officials, and January is an ideal time to do it.

"The start of a new year is a time when many of us do regular home maintenance tasks that can help protect our health and safety, such as replacing smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm batteries," said Commissioner Sanne Magnan of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "If you've never tested your home for radon before, now is the best time to do it. This time of year, our homes are generally closed up more tightly because of the weather, so we're more likely to have a build-up of radon gas or to be exposed to it for extended periods of time."

January is National Radon Action Month and communities across the nation have planned activities and special events to increase awareness of the health effects of radon exposure and to promote radon testing, mitigation and radon-resistant new construction.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has proclaimed January as Radon Action Month in Minnesota. MDH and its partners are conducting radon awareness events and promoting testing throughout the state.

MDH and Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester were recognized recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an initiative that will help to reduce radon levels in new homes. A new law passed in 2007 requires radon ventilation systems to be installed in all new homes built in Minnesota. However, new homes can still have elevated levels of radon, so MDH recommends that all homes be tested.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2007, the department and its partners reported that 11,008 short-term test kits were used to test for radon in Minnesota homes. At least 1,007 homes were mitigated for radon and approximately 145 new homes were built with radon-reducing features.

Radon is found at elevated levels in one in 15 homes across the U.S., but in Minnesota one in three homes have elevated radon levels. Major studies have indicated that exposure to elevated levels of radon causes lung cancer in humans. A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report in February 1998 confirmed that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. A more recent EPA report released in June 2003 states that radon causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

"Despite these known risks, people tend to minimize the health effects of radon and ignore the possibility that it might exist at elevated levels in their homes because they can't see it or smell it," said Dale Dorschner, MDH indoor air unit supervisor. MDH, EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend all homeowners test for radon.

"Any home in Minnesota may have elevated levels of radon, even if other homes in the same neighborhood do not," said Dorschner. "The age or type of home does not matter; each home needs to be tested."

Using simple and inexpensive kits, homeowners can test for the presence of radon in their homes and, if it is present, take steps to fix the problem.

Radon test kits are available at city and county health departments, or directly from a laboratory.

In Douglas County, kits are available at Environmental Health at Douglas County Public Health, (320) 763-6018.

Additional information on how to purchase a radon detector is available from MDH and the radon Web site at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/index.html .

ADVERTISEMENT

Radon problems can be easily fixed by qualified contractors. A list of qualified contractors can be obtained by contacting the MDH indoor air unit or visiting the MDH radon Web site www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/mitigation.html .

For more information on radon, radon testing, radon mitigation and building new homes that are radon resistant, call Douglas County Public Health at (320) 763-6018, the MDH at (651) 201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050 or visit the MDH radon Web site www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/index.html .

What To Read Next
The warrant was issued after Cole Michelson failed to appear for a hearing at Douglas County District Court on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
Tonya Bakewell Dreher will be honored during an online ceremony March 8.
.
The Direct Home Loan program offers financing to qualified very-low and low-income applicants that are unable to qualify for traditional financing.