Radon: What Is It And Why Do We Care?

What exactly is Radon?

Radon is a common, naturally occurring colorless, odorless, and radioactive gas released in rock, soil and water that can build up to dangerous levels inside any home. That means, you don’t know you have it in your home unless you test for it. It is produced from the natural decay of uranium and radium, found in rocks and soil. Because soil is porous, radon moves up from the soil and into the home. It can then accumulate in the air and become a health concern.

When inhaled, these fine particles can damage the lungs. Exposure to radon over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer! It is estimated that 21,000 people die each year in the United States from lung cancer due to radon exposure.

Radon is a serious public health concern in Minnesota and in Wisconsin. The average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the U.S. radon level. This is due to geology and climate. Midwest homes are closed up and heated much of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Minnesota, more than two in five homes have radon levels that pose significant health risks!

Where are levels are radon the highest?

The maps below are for informational purposes only and should not be used to determine if you need to test or not.

When and how should you test your home for Radon?

The EPA recommends that you test your home every 2-5 years and be sure to save your results.

It’s a good idea to test any home you are purchasing if the current homeowner has not done a radon test in the last 2-3 years. You can ask your Realtor®️ to make your offer contingent on a satisfactory radon test.

In the United States, the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L. The average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L. The U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend fixing homes with radon levels at or above 4 pCi/L. EPA also recommends that people think about fixing their homes for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.

Testing your house for radon is easy. You can hire a professional to come out and test, stop by your local hardware store and pick one up, order a kit offered by the Minnesota Department of Health for $12.95 from mn.radon.com which includes postage, analysis and a radon test report, or check with your county…many counties offer free radon tests to homeowners. Wisconsinites can order low cost kits depending on the county the home is in. Learn more about ordering a kit for your WI home here.

If levels are high, then what?

If your house has a radon problem, it can be fixed but its time to call a qualified radon mitigator in your area. Radon mitigation is any process or system used to reduce radon concentrations in buildings. Fixing a radon problem reduces the risk of lung cancer for you and your family. The cost of installing a radon mitigation system will depend on your home, foundation, and whether or not you need an active or passive system. Active radon systems have a fan at the top that assists in moving radon out of your home. In general, costs can range from $1,500 to $3000. Financial assistance from your local county or State Health Department may even be available to help pay for a radon mitigation system and depends on household income, geographic location, and funding availability.

Radon Resources

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Radon Info

Homebuyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon

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