Minnesota Department of Health
A dangerous gas is seeping into homes throughout Steele County — a gas that carries adverse health effects — and the homeowners may not be aware of it.
According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, high levels of radon — an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that has been known to cause lung cancer — are present in 67 percent of the homes in Steele County.
Two-thirds of the homes in Steele County have levels of at least 4 picocuries per liter. A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, an international unit of measurement for radioactivity. Dan Tranter, supervisor of the Indoor Air Unit at the state’s health department, said radon poses a risk to those living in high concentrations.
For the past five years, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has generated radon awareness by providing test kits to local public health and non-profit organizations. This year MDH outdid previous efforts as they were able to distribute 8,250 short term radon test kits throughout Minnesota!
Using State Indoor Radon Grant (SIRG) funding from EPA, MDH shipped radon test kits and outreach materials to partner organizations in approximately half of the counties in the state. MDH partners then distributed the kits to local residents using the outreach materials to raise awareness in their communities. Partners were able to sell the test kits to generate revenue and cover their staff costs for this effort.
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.
Perspective means everything when analyzing whether a public health policy is successful or not. So, when it comes to protecting Minnesotans from radon, is the glass half empty or half full?
In “Radon fix leaves some at risk” (July 14), the Star Tribune took one side of a story and presented a gloom-and-doom analysis. We’d like to tell you why the Minnesota Department of Health should be celebrating a successful public-policy solution.
An estimated one in three Minnesota homes harbors high levels of radon. However, testing for the radioactive gas before buying or selling a home can lead to reduced health risks, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, with more than 21,000 deaths attributable to radon each year. It is the greatest environmental cancer risk and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Yet radon exposure is largely preventable.
MDH estimates that one in three Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose a considerable health risk of lung cancer over many years of exposure. Homes with high radon levels are fixable, but first they must be tested. MDH is highlighting radon testing during National Public Health Week, April 1 through 7.
Testing for radon during the sale of a home is an opportune time:
Every 25 minutes, one person in the U.S. dies from radon-related lung cancer. It is the largest environmental cancer risk and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Fortunately, the risk is largely preventable.
More than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and state health officials say every home should be tested. To emphasize the importance of radon testing, Gov. Mark Dayton has declared January “Radon Action Month” in Minnesota. More than 40 local public health agencies around the state have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to make more than 8,000 radon test kits available to local residents at low or no cost. For details on how to obtain a kit, contact your local public health agency or MDH. A list of participating health agencies can be found on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us.
The second-leading cause of lung cancer is something probably few know about and not enough homeowners test for.
The Minnesota Department of Health wants to change that. Gov. Mark Dayton has declared January to be Radon Action Month in Minnesota.
“Radon is a persistent health threat in the state, and we try to call attention to it all year round,” said Andrew Gilbert, MDH radon outreach coordinator.
More than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas, and state health officials say every home should be tested.
“Radon is a radioactive gas that’s naturally occurring in the soil, so you can’t really see it, smell it or taste it, so that’s the danger: You don’t know it’s there unless you are testing for it,” he said. “It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind.”
Radon is the largest environmental cancer risk and the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Residents can purchase radon testing kits at the Scott County Government Center, located in Shakopee.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, an estimated one in three homes in Minneosta have radon levels that can put health at risk with prolonged exposure.
Radon testing kits can determine if radon is in the home. Kits can be purchased at the customer service window at the Scott County Government Center, located at 200 Fourth Avenue West in Shakopee.
MDH lists Scott County Public Health as a local radon contact. It is located in Suite A160 in the government center.
(The following information is provided by the Minnesota Department of Health.)
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota has some of the strictest rules in the nation for mitigating radon gas in homes. But the state Department of Health is concerned the rules don't go far enough, and it's now asking builders to voluntarily install attic fans that can draw out the toxic gas.
The naturally occurring gas is odorless, invisible, and found in soils throughout Minnesota, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 800 Minnesotans die each year from radon-induced lung cancer.
Even so, only a few builders have signed on to the MDH program, which is aimed at augmenting the passive radon vents required by Minnesota law.
Dean Hanson of Hanson Builders, who has been in business for 32 years, said the agency offered to give him a discount on radon-venting fans if he agreed to install them in all of the new homes he builds.