The number of Minnesota families taking action to reduce levels of cancer-causing radon gas in their homes has more than doubled in the two years since a new state law took effect in 2014. Health officials say the increase means fewer families will experience lung cancer and other negative health impacts of radon exposure in the years ahead.
The law that took effect Jan. 1, 2014, requires that more detailed information be provided to buyers about radon during Minnesota home sales. According to data collected by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), most of the additional radon mitigation work in homes since enactment of the law occurred as part of real estate transactions.
There were 3,392 homes mitigated for radon during the first nine months of 2015. For the same period in 2014, 2,389 homes were mitigated. In comparison, 1,491 homes had radon mitigation work in 2013 and 1,067 homes had the mitigation work in 2012.
Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in Minnesota soils. It can enter into homes through cracks or openings in walls or foundations. The only way for residents to know if their home has high levels of radon is to test.
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. Fortunately, the risk can be greatly reduced by testing homes and fixing radon problems. Health officials say about two in five Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas, and every home should be tested.
The 2014 Minnesota Radon Awareness Act requires sellers to inform home 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. In addition, sellers must provide a warning statement and a two-page publication to the buyer.
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 has been done.
“This law improves the health and safety of Minnesotans by informing home buyers about the harmful effects of radon at the point of sale,” said Dan Tranter, MDH indoor air program supervisor. “This allows potential buyers to be educated on radon and to request a radon test for a property similar to the way home inspections are arranged.”
January is National Radon Action Month, and Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Radon Action Month in Minnesota. During January, MDH is sponsoring radio and internet ads across Minnesota to encourage people to test their homes. In addition, MDH has partnered with local public health departments to make test kits available to local residents at low or no cost.
Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes three to five days. 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 at Radon in Minnesota Homes.
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 (picoCuries per Liter), you should consider verification testing and having a radon mitigation system installed. You can find MDH’s list of certified radon mitigation contractors at Radon Contractors/Mitigation Service Providers.
— Information provided by MDH. For more information on radon testing and mitigation, visit Radon in Minnesota Homes or call the Minnesota Department of Health Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050. To see how radon has affected the lives of cancer patients and their families, visit CanSAR – Cancer Survivors Against Radon.