Disturbing news arrived earlier this month from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and hopefully, homeowners will take necessary action.

You may be surprised to learn that two in five Minnesota homes, that's more than 40%, have high radon levels posing cancer risks and homeowners may not even know they live in an unhealthy home.

Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas and it's the leading cause of lung cancer in people who have never smoked. Health officials note that Minnesota has unusually high radon levels due to its unique geology and cold climate. The average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the U.S. radon level: 4.2 pCi/L (picocuries of radon per liter of air) compared to 1.3 pCi/L.

Furthermore, a recent American Lung Association analysis estimated that in 2018, 638 lung cancer cases in Minnesota were radon-induced (17.8%), out of the 3,587 lung cancer cases diagnosed.

“Radon is a serious public health issue in Minnesota, and we urge everyone to test their home for radon this month,” said Jill Heins-Nesvold, national senior director of Health Systems Improvement and Indoor Air Quality at the American Lung Association.

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With that in mind, and because so few homes are tested for radon, the Minnesota Department of Health, along with the American Cancer Society, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation, and the American Lung Association urges homeowners and renters alike to test their homes for radon as soon as possible.

Dr. Brooke Cunningham, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, says that testing is the only way to know for sure your home has high radon levels, but she notes that only about 1% or 2% of Minnesota homes are tested each year and winter is the best time to do it.

In the winter, home heating systems tend to draw in radon gas from the soil, increasing radon levels inside the home. Many Minnesotans also use basements as living spaces, which can increase radon exposure. Renters, especially those in in-ground or garden-level units, should test their homes or ask their landlords to test them. Although testing can be done year-round, the best time to test is during the heating season.

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How Do You Test For Radon And Is It Expensive?

Thankfully, testing for radon is not only easy, but it's inexpensive. The Minnesota Department of Health expects to send out more than 6,000 kits to health departments and other partners, who will distribute them statewide at low or no cost.

Test kits also can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores or ordered online for $12.95 through mn.radon.com. Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. Tests should not be done in laundry or utility rooms, kitchens, or bathrooms. If you're uncomfortable doing the test yourself, licensed professionals can conduct testing.

In homes found to have high radon levels, the fix usually involves installing a ventilating pipe and fan to pull air out from under the home, which reduces the amount of radon entering the home.

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