Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that seeps up from the earth. When inhaled, it gives off radioactive particles that can damage the cells that line the lung.
How does radon enter a home?
Since radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils, it is present nearly everywhere. Because soil is porous, radon gas is able to move up through the dirt and rocks and into the air we breathe. Two components that affect how much radon will accumulate in a home are:
- Pathways: Routes the gas uses to enter your home and are found anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil. Some examples of pathways are; cracks in concrete slabs, pores and cracks in concrete blocks, floor-wall joints, exposed soil in a sump pump or crawl space.
- Air Pressure: Minnesota homes commonly operate under a negative air pressure, especially during the heating season. The pressure inside your home is typically lower that the surrounding air and soil, and this creates a vacuum that pulls soil gases into the home via pathways.
How dangerous is radon?
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer (after tobacco) in smokers. Thankfullly, this risk should be entirely preventable through awareness and testing.
How serious a problem is radon in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, one in three homes has radon levels that pose a signficant health risk, and nearly 80% of counties are rated high radon zones. View the Department of Health's Interactive Radon Map by using the quick link to the right of this column.
How can I test my home?
Short term tests measure radon levels for 2 to 7 days. While short-term tests do not measure the annual average level of radon they do offer a quick and inexpensive way to "screen" for radon in a home.
Where can I get a radon test kit?
The Minnesota Department of Health has provided Chisago County with short term test kits to be offered for sale at the cost of $2.00, and include return shipping. The kits can be purchased at the Chisago County Environmental Services Department in the Government Center in Center City from 8:00 - 4:30, or at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in North Branch, 39649 Grand Avenue Mondays from 12:00 - 7:00 p.m., and the last Saturday of the month from 9 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.
The Minnesota Department of Health also offers a link to the manufacturer for on line purchase. Visit their website for more information on radon, Minnesota levels, health effects, short and long term testing, results, and mitigation. Or contact the MDH Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601.