Editorial: Radon is a silent killer
It's easy not to think about radon. You can't see it, smell it or taste it, after all, and unlike carbon monoxide poisoning, for example, it attacks your health over a long period of time.
It’s easy not to think about radon. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, after all, and unlike carbon monoxide poisoning, for example, it attacks your health over a long period of time.
But it can be fatal. Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
More than 21,000 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year in the U.S.
Even though the risk is largely preventable, by testing homes and fixing radon problems, few Minnesotans ever take action on radon.
That’s unfortunate, since two in five Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and state health officials say every home should be tested.
Radon occurs naturally in Minnesota soils. It can enter into all kinds of homes through cracks or openings in walls or foundations. The only way for residents to know if their home has radon is to test.
But things are changing because of a new disclosure law that requires sellers to inform buyers whether their home has been tested for radon and if so, what the levels are and whether the home has been mitigated for radon.
Sellers must also provide a warning statement and a two-page publication to the buyer.
The law went into effect at the start of last year, and as a result the number of homes fixed in the last year to remove radon doubled over previous years.
During the first nine months of 2014, at least 2,389 homes had work done to reduce radon levels; the average for the previous two years was 1,279. Considering that there are approximately 100,000 home sales per year in Minnesota, increasing radon awareness during real estate transactions was expected to increase radon testing and mitigation of homes, according to indoor air specialists at MDH.
To help real estate professionals with the new law, MDH staff over the past year taught 60 classes across the state attended by 1,578 real estate professionals.
MDH continues to offer these continuing education classes, as well as classes on mold and carbon monoxide, at no cost.
Radon tests can be incorporated into a home inspection. The law does not require radon testing or mitigation; only disclosure of whether testing or mitigation of the home have been done.
Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes a few days. The best time to test is during the heating seasons, but testing can be done year-round.
Test kits are available at city and county health departments, many hardware stores, or directly from radon testing laboratories.
A list of participating health agencies and test kit vendors can be found on the MDH website.
Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied.
If your home’s level is at or above 4 piC/L, you should consider verification testing and having a radon mitigation system installed.
Anyone interested in mitigating his or her home for radon should consult MDH’s website for a list of certified radon mitigation contractors.
Now is the perfect time to test for radon. The life you save may be your own.
FORUM NEWS SERVICE