January is the perfect time to test homes for radon
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as National Radon Action Month to raise awareness about the risks of radon in our homes. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers causing more than 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Because of our geology and climate, radon is a serious public health concern in Minnesota where the average radon level in homes is more than three times higher than the U.S. level. 55%-68% of properties tested in Goodhue County are over the EPA action level.
Any home can have high radon, whether old or new, well-sealed or drafty and with or without a basement. When our houses are closed up, radon gas, formed by naturally decaying uranium in the earth, moves up from the soil and into homes through cracks in concrete, floor-wall joints, open sump pits, or crawl spaces. Breathing in this radioactive gas over time can lead to lung cancer. Smokers have much higher risk.
All Minnesota homes should be tested for radon and then retested every 2-5 years and whenever changes to the home could affect air flow. People can test their own home using an inexpensive test kit available at hardware stores and public health agencies. Goodhue County Health & Human Services and Land Use Management have kits available for $10 with no additional lab fee. Just hang them up in the lowest occupied level of the house for 4-7 days and mail them in.
These kits can also be ordered online from the Minnesota Dept. of Health. Certified radon professionals can also perform tests and install mitigation systems to reduce radon levels at or above 4pCi/L. A mitigation system uses a fan to pull air from underground and exhaust it outdoors through a pipe. The average cost of hiring a professional to mitigate radon levels is $1,500. More information about radon, testing, and fixing radon problems, including a list of licensed contractors and financial assistance, can be found at https://www.health.state.mn.us/radon. For questions, contact Goodhue County Health & Human Services at 651-385-3200.