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EDITORIAL: Stopping radon before it kills

Believing the adage, “What you don’t know can’t kill you,” could actually contribute to your premature demise. Especially if you apply it to radon testing.
Radon causes more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. Many of those deaths occur in Minnesota, where radon is a serious health concern.
The startling reality is that McLeod County is smack dab in the middle of a high-radon zone. We need to take radon testing seriously.
A paper done at St. John’s University a few years ago estimated between 500 and 1,000 McLeod County residents’ lives could eventually be saved from radon-related lung cancer if testing and mitigation were mandatory. The government isn’t likely to require that, so the decision to safeguard your family is yours.
Have you purchased a kit to learn if you’re at risk? Do you know that if the last time you tested was more than five years ago, it’s time to do it again?
Here are the facts: Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that seeps up from the earth. It damages the cells that line the lung.
Most of us have breathed this gas at one time or another. The problem is you might be breathing lethal doses in your home without knowing it.
It doesn’t matter if your home is new or old. Radon doesn’t discriminate. It uses all sorts of pathways to enter your home: cracks in your basement concrete slab, pores in concrete blocks, open tops of block walls, weeping drain tile and more.
New homes might even be more susceptible, depending on the air pressure between your home’s interior and the exterior soil. Newer homes are built more tightly, meaning they tend to have negative air pressure, especially during the heating season. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, this means the air pressure inside your home is typically lower than the surrounding air and soil. This creates a vacuum that pulls soil and gases, such as radon, into homes via the pathways we mentioned earlier.
Because radon comes from soil, radon levels tend to be higher in the lower parts of a building. That’s why people who sleep in bedrooms on the lowest level of homes are at a higher health risk.
The Minnesota Department of Health recommends every Minnesota home, even those built radon-resistant, be tested every two to five years. It also advises a test before and after you make any major structural renovations such as building an addition or finishing a basement. You should also perform a radon test after buying a new heating system or adding central air conditioning.
You can obtain a test kit for a reasonable price from several sources including most hardware stores. Or you can get one free from McLeod County Public Health by visiting its office at 1805 Ford Ave. N., Glencoe, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 weekdays.
The heating season is the best time of year to test. The kit’s instructions will inform you where to mail your test for results. When you receive the results, you will be given a number that indicates picocuries per liter, which is a unit that measures levels of radon/radiocactive gas.
If your number is about 4 pCI/L, you will be advised to fix your house.
If the number is between 2 and 4, you will be advised to consider fixing your house.
If your number is below 2, your health risk is lower. But be aware that there is no safe level of radon.
The decision to take action based on your test results is yours alone. Reducing high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills.
In general, radon mitigation can cost from $800 to $2,500, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. That might sound like a lot of money, but consider the alternative.
A decision to fix a radon problem may save a loved one’s life. It’s a matter not to put off.

Read the article at CrowRiverMedia.com: http://www.crowrivermedia.com/hutchinsonleader/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-stopping-radon-before-it-kills/article_406405ce-c331-5df6-b93b-8d5f3bc14919.html