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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 is largely preventable, by testing homes and fixing radon problems. About 2 in 5 Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas; in Rice County, that number is even higher – about 3 in 5 homes.
Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless 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 radon is to test. Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes 3-7 days. The best time to test is during the heating season, but testing can be done year-round. Free test kits are available at Rice County Public Health, located in the lower level of the Rice County Government Services building in Faribault, 320 3rd Street N.W. and at the Rice County office location in Northfield, at 801 Washington Street.
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 pCi/L, you should consider verification testing and having a radon mitigation system installed. Anyone interested in mitigating their home for radon should consult MDH’s list of certified radon mitigation contractors at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/mitigation.html
Minnesota law requires disclosure and information provided to buyers about radon during Minnesota home sales. The law 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. In addition, sellers must provide a warning statement and a 2-page publication to the buyer. The law does not require radon testing or mitigation.
Another law requires that new homes built since 2009 have passive radon resistant features. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) encourages builders to activate the passive radon resistant features through the addition of a radon fan. In homes with radon fans, MDH has found very low radon concentrations.
Free on-line training about radon is available for real estate professionals, builders, and childcare providers. More information can be found here: www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/reestatetrain.html
For more information about radon testing and mitigation, visit www.health.state.mn.us/radon or call the Minnesota Department of Health Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050.
Sara Coulter, Rice County Public Health Clinic & Community Supervisor (507) 332-5910
Deb Purfeerst, Rice County Public Health Director (507) 332-5914
Sara Folsted, Rice County Administrator (507) 332-5910