By SARA COULTER
Rice County Clinic & Community Supervisor
January is radon action month. Rice County Public Health joins the Minnesota Department of Health and US Environmental Protection Agency in urging everyone to test their home for radon, the invisible radioactive gas found at elevated levels in many Minnesota homes.
Radon is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that occurs naturally in Minnesota soils. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among people who never smoked. Fortunately, the risk is largely preventable through testing homes and fixing radon problems. The only way for residents to know if their home has radon is to test.
Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. Test devices are usually placed in the home for two to five days. The best time to test is during the heating season, but testing can be done year-round. With more people working and schooling from home, it’s even more important to test homes.
Test kits are available at many hardware stores, or directly from radon testing laboratories. Rice County residents also have the option of calling Rice County Public Health at 507-332-6111 and requesting to have a free test kit mailed to their home or they may pick up a kit on the lower level of the Rice County Government Services Building, 320 Third Street NW or the Northfield office at 1651 Jefferson Parkway, Suite YW108.
Health professionals recommend testing for radon during real estate transactions; a radon test should be incorporated into a home inspection. Sellers must disclose any prior radon testing and provide a two-page publication to buyers, under state law. MDH licenses home inspectors and other professionals who test for radon. A list of currently licensed radon measurement professionals can be found on the Find a Radon Measurement Professional page on the MDH site.
In homes found to have high radon levels, radon reduction typically involves installing a venting pipe and fan to pull the gas from under the home to the outside. This reduces the amount of radon in the home to low levels. Professionals conducting radon mitigation must be licensed by MDH, follow standards and affix an MDH tag to the system. A list of currently licensed radon mitigation professionals can be found on the Find a Radon Mitigation Professional page on the MDH website.
MDH conducts free inspections of radon mitigation systems installed after June 1, 2020. The inspections ensure systems were installed correctly and meet minimum requirements. Contact the MDH Indoor Air Unit to request an inspection at [email protected].
To help residents get a more accurate picture of radon levels in Minnesota, MDH created a series of maps showing information about Radon in Minnesota. Some of the key findings were:
- About 40% of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon.
- The average radon level in Minnesota homes is about 4.2 pCi/L compared to 1.3 pCi/L nationwide.
- Only about 1-2% of homes in Minnesota are tested annually, but every home in Minnesota should be tested at least every five years.
- Testing and mitigation is less frequent in communities with lower incomes and more renters.
To learn more about the radon maps, radon testing, radon mitigation and licensure in Minnesota, visit:
Sara Coulter is the Clinic & Community Supervisor for Rice County Public Health. Reach her at [email protected] or 507-332-5910.