Radon Awareness Month
By Adam Solko, Home Inspector and Licensed Radon Professional
Why every homeowner should test for radon
Radon in the homes is something that every homeowner should be aware of; what it is, how it enters the home, and what to do to manage it. It is especially important to consider radon in Minnesota due to significant glaciation that ground the granitic rocks from the Canadian Shield and deposited it as soils in the midwest. It is because of this that all new home construction in Minnesota has been required to be radon resistant since 2009, and why every homeowner should consider radon testing and mitigation.
What is radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is produced by the radioactive decay of radium-226, which is found in uranium ores, phosphate rock, shales, igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite, gneiss, and schist, and to a lesser degree, in common rocks such as limestone. Much of the radon in Minnesota and Iowa is credited to the loose , porous soils along with the deposits of granite from the glaciers that passed through here many, many years ago. This is why nearly half the homes in Minnesota have high levels of radon.
While radon may seem new to many, it was discovered over 120 years ago and was found to be a factor in lung cancer more than 40 years ago. It is estimated that 21,000 people die from lung cancer attributed to radon each year in the United States.
The gas enters a building through the lowest level. Many times this is the basement, but if your house, apartment, or condo has no basement, then it will enter via the ground floor. The concentration of the gas is highest in the lowest levels, and if you spend a significant amount of time in those areas then extra attention is warranted. If you would like to know more about the science of how the gas finds its way into a structure the Minnesota Department of Heath is a great resource.
The only way to know the levels in your house is to have it tested. Radon can be different from one neighborhood to the next and even between houses. So, just because your neighbor had a low test does not mean that yours will be low as well. The state of Minnesota has made testing cheap and easy to do for the house you live in. If you would like to do your own testing the State of Minnesota offers low-cost short term test kits. You may also elect to perform a more accurate long term test. In the case that a non-biased 3rd party is needed for testing, such as a real estate transaction, it is recommended that you use a licensed radon measurement professional.
Radon is here in Minnesota and more of a risk due to the long heating season and increasing tendency to keep the home closed up. The health effects are important to know and testing is the only way to determine if your levels are harmful. The process for testing can be done by the homeowner or a measurement contractor. If you would like help with your testing by a licensed, non-bias professional consider Honest Home Inspection.