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A Year One Review of Radon Measurement Licensure in Minnesota

December 19, 2019

Radon licensure requirements for measurement started in 2019. Because this was the first year of a new regulation, MDH has minimized enforcement actions and focused on compliance assistance. The MDH radon program has licensed approximately 400 individuals. The Minnesota Radon Licensing Act has helped improve the quality of testing being conducted in Minnesota, which provides residents reliable information to make decisions regarding their health, safety, and financial interests.

Unfortunately, incorrect information was recently distributed by email by an outside organization to some radon professionals, stating that some home inspectors have seen fines in excess of $25,000, despite their best efforts to comply with the new law. The truth is that during this first year of licensing, fines have only been issued by the MDH radon program for testing without a license and using unapproved test devices. The fines ranged from $500 - $1,500 and in all cases, the individuals came into compliance and the fines were forgiven.

MDH conducted a lot of education and individual consultations to help professionals comply with the new licensing law in 2019. Outreach was completed to approximately 200 unlicensed people that may be testing (such as home inspectors and previously certified individuals) to inform them about licensure.

MDH also provided a wide range of radon education to licensees, real estate professionals, schools and the general public. There were 21 unique hours of free continuing education offered to licensees throughout the state, in-person and by webinar. This helped the licensees meet their continuing education requirement under the rules and provided valuable information on radon testing requirements and why proper testing is important.

Trainings offered included:
19 trainings for licensees (709 attendees)
32 real estate classes (701 attendees)
15 school trainings (344 attendees)
7 other trainings provided by others in which MDH staff presented (307 attendees)
MDH staff audited individuals at 207 companies for a total of 312 licensees audited. The audits this year focused on compliance assistance. It was a one-on-one education session to go through an individual’s processes and testing equipment, and we provided assistance on how to comply with the new regulation. One hour of continuing education was granted for the audit since it is was a tailored education session. After the audit, a summary, with instructions for corrective actions, was provided to each licensee. Enforcement action was taken as a result of only two audits. This occurred when information was provided that unlicensed individuals in that company were conducting testing without a license.

Through the audits, we found many basic quality control steps were not being followed. The most common violations were: not giving proper notice prior to and during the test; not documenting test conditions and not providing required standard language in test reports; not following their QA Plan and not performing quality control measurements such as duplicates. A significant, but less common violation was individuals testing with equipment that was past its calibration due date. On average, we found 10 unique violations at each audit, with a range of 0 violations and up to 22 violations. Interestingly, more violations were observed for licensees who are or were NRPP certified within the last two years than for uncertified individuals. These findings show that regulation of the radon measurement industry is warranted and that voluntary certification alone does not ensure adequate compliance with standards and public health protection.

MDH staff investigated 30 complaints this year. We used education and enforcement actions to help bring the individuals into compliance. As discussed above, penalties were forgiven after compliance was determined.

Licensing requirements have helped identify unapproved devices in use. By investigating one complaint, MDH staff identified and helped individuals who were using unapproved radon testing devices. MDH staff worked with the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP), the device manufacturer, and the licensees to identify unapproved devices and get them taken out of use.

Another major improvement this past year that has led to more accurate testing was licensees performing quality control checks of devices that was not being performed prior to licensing or not with the same frequency. By performing the routine required quality control checks, some licensees found problems with their devices and got them fixed and recalibrated. Some of these devices were brand new monitors or were recently calibrated. Without quality control checks these devices could have been providing customers inaccurate data that they would be using to make financial and health safety decisions.

MDH adopted the ANSI/AARST standards with only one modification--requiring tests of each unique foundation type. Anyone who is NRPP certified agrees to follow these same ANSI/AARST standards, which have been in existence for 15 years. Nearly 50% of the licensees who were audited this year are NRPP certified or were certified within the last 2 years.

Having enforcement of the standards is a big change for radon professionals and the industry. To help make it easier for licensees to comply with these requirements, MDH has created templates that licensees can use to make it easier to meet the requirements of the standards. MDH has created templates for every requirement for single family testing, including the Quality Assurance plan, test report, test notification forms, test placement and retrieval checklist and a spreadsheet for tracking QC measurements. Numerous fact sheets, handouts, and guides have also been created to assist in the licensing process too.

One major process radon professionals are adapting to is how test results are reported to customers. Since radon levels in a building can fluctuate based on numerous factors, it is important to know some basic facts about the person performing the test, the device used, and the conditions present during the radon test. All of these factors can directly influence the test results, so it is important for anyone to be able to have this information if they are to determine the accuracy of the test and if it truly represents the risk from the radon hazard. Unfortunately, none of the current test device manufacturers test report templates contain all of the required information, and instead rely on testing professionals to create their own reports that meet the standard. This has been a big change for licensees in Minnesota who are used to simply giving the minimal report from the test device. MDH has been working with many device manufacturers to make them aware of the deficiencies and to try to either modify the reports to come into compliance with the national standards, or at a minimum, make the reports modifiable so that end users can bring them into compliance. As an alternative option to help licensees comply with the requirements, MDH has created a fillable PDF report template that licensees can use.

We have heard of some people who chose to stop testing for radon. Others have increased their business, which is demonstrated by adding additional equipment and/or licensed individuals while complying with the licensing requirements.

MDH is committed to protecting the health of all Minnesotans. Our efforts in the radon licensing program have been aimed at preventing radon induced lung cancer by allowing Minnesotans to make decisions based on accurate radon test results.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Tranter
Supervisor | Indoor Air Unit
Minnesota Department of Health
Office: 651-201-4618