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New Minnesota Health Department Codes Insufficient

According to the preliminary results of a study launched last fall by the Minnesota Health Department, 20 percent of new homes being built have radon levels above 4.0 picocuries per liter. This is well above the point that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regards as safe. Before a new state building code went into effect in 2009, approximately 40 percent of homes tested come back at unsafe levels. The 2009 code change was supposed to reduce the risk of radon exposure in Minnesota.

Health officials are still concerned that the code leaves some homeowners exposed to deadly levels of the cancer-causing gas. The passive radon mitigation systems installed under the code do not do the job sufficiently. “That is still a quarter of our population being highly exposed to something that gives lung cancer,’’ says manager of the Minnesota Health Department’s radon program, Joshua Miller. They are not always effective at reducing radon levels below the federal health safety standard.

Passive radon mitigation systems consist of just a pipe dug into the sub basement area to vent the radioactive gas. In the fall study, 770 new homes with the passive systems were tested and if high radon levels were discovered, the Health Department offered homeowners fans to upgrade their systems. A fan gives added suction to a passive system. Most radon-mitigation contractors install fan-driven systems but they are costlier. About 50 fans were handed out by the Health Department and then they re-tested the homes.

After the fans were installed, the average test score was approximately 0.3 picocuries per liter. “You can’t get any better,” Miller said happily. “It’s essentially outdoor air. There’s very little radon getting into homes with the fan installed.”

Minnesota and the Midwest region have some of the highest radon levels in the country because of local geology aspects. In the United States, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and kills 21,000 people per year. The Minnesota Health Department encourages all Minnesotans to test their homes for radon and take the proper steps to reduce the levels to acceptable tolerances.

Read more here: http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/state-and-regional/article_dc86773f-acd9-5716-a2aa-513337b8677e.html