Radon test kits on sale until end of March

You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. But thousands of Minnesota homes have potentially harmful levels of radon gas, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to Jill Hylla, of the Wright County Public Health Department.

The health department is selling short-term radon test kits at a reduced cost of $3 until the end of March (or as long as supplies last). A short-term kit will provide the quickest results. It has to be in place for three to seven days. To purchase a test kit, stop at Wright County Human Services, 1004 Commercial Drive in Buffalo, MN 55313, or at the Wellness on Wheels Van, make a check payable to Wright County and mail it to the above address, Attn: Radon, or visit the website at www.co.wright.mn.us/department/humanservices/humanb.asp. The kit will be mailed to the purchaser.

Radon is a radioactive gas that continuously decays and releases radiation. Radon is produced from minerals in soil, such as uranium and radium. This type of radiation can cause cancer in humans. The Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States — second only to smoking. For nonsmokers in this country, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer. More than 21,000 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year in the U.S.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that about two out of five Minnesota homes have enough radon to pose a large risk to a homeowner’s health over a number of years of exposure. Radon, because it is a gas, is able to move through spaces in the soil or fill material around a home’s foundation. Radon can enter a home through floors and walls — anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil.

Once radon enters a home, it moves freely throughout the indoor air, and people can breathe it into their lungs. The level of radon is often highest in the lower part of the building. Radon moves through a house with natural air movement and it can be distributed by forced-air ventilation systems. As radon moves away from the home’s foundation or other entry points, it mixes into the fresh air — generally in upper levels of the home where there is more fresh air ventilation.

Because radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, a radon test is the only way to find out how much radon is in your home. Performing a radon test on your own is easy, and inexpensive, Hylla said.

Every home is unique due to its local soil, construction details and maintenance, she continued. That is why test results from a nearby home cannot be relied upon to predict radon levels in another. Also, previous test results might not reflect current and future radon levels for a home that has been remodeled, weatherized or had changes made to its heating, air conditioning or ventilation systems.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that all Minnesota homeowners test their homes for radon. Results of a radon test will help homeowners determine whether they need to take further action to protect their family from the health risks of radon in the home.

A law requiring more detailed disclosure and information about radon in Minnesota homes during most residential real estate transactions went into effect on Jan. 1. The Minnesota Radon Awareness Act 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. According to the new disclosure law, sellers must provide three kinds of information to buyers before signing a purchase agreement to sell or transfer residential property:

–A radon disclosure form that includes whether a radon test has occurred, records of radon concentrations, a description of any radon concentrations, mitigation, or remediation and information regarding the radon mitigation system.

–A radon warning statement outlining the health risks of radon, the potential for radon in Minnesota homes and recommending testing.

–A two-page publication titled “Radon in Real Estate Transactions” that provides more details on radon topics.