News HighlightsPage address: http://www.mnsu.edu/news/read/?id=old-1199740410&paper=topstories
Many area homes high in cancer-causing radon, University center says
Free kits available
The Minnesota State Mankato Radon Project has tested 1,700 homes in Blue Earth County and found 67 percent of them have levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s health standard.
By Dan Linehan, Free Press staff writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 1/7/2008]
Photos by Pat Christman
Mike Shores of the Minnesota State University Radon Project sets up a radon monitor in Jim Senden's North Mankato home. Senden recently spent $1,200 to have a radon-mitigation system installed after discovering his home had very high radon levels.
If a home radon testing kit indicates high levels of the gas, Shores can visit with a more sophisticated monitor to determine exact levels.
The project offers free radon testing kits like these to homeowners through a grant.
After hearing about a neighbor with elevated levels of radon, Jim Senden had his North Mankato home tested and found levels in his basement were nearly five times the federal standard for health.
"You don't watch TV in the basement in the same way when you know there is a cancer-causing gas in there with you," Senden joked.
So he spent $1,200 and had a radon-mitigation system installed.
"Anything that is a threat to my family and myself, I wanted to address," said Senden, who has lived in the Nicollet County house for 35 years.
And chances are, if you live in Blue Earth County, your home has elevated radon levels.
The Minnesota State University Radon Project has tested 1,700 homes in the county and found 67 percent of them have levels above the Environmental Protection Agency's health standard. The project's Mike Shores said the Upper Midwest's geology, combined with the popularity of basements here, contributes to the high radon levels. The project offers free radon testing kits to the public and has received 200 more kits in a grant from the National Association of Counties. The kits cost about $25 if you buy them at the store.
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that you can't see, smell or taste. It's the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates it kills more than 20,000 people per year.
Mitigation can include a number of measures, including sealing cracks, installing a venting system, membrane sheeting in crawl spaces, house/room pressurization or an air-to-air heat exchanger.
While January is National Radon Action Month, it can be an unexciting topic, a problem that doesn't seem to generate much action.
"That's the toughest part about this job," Shores said. Radon is "colorless, odorless, tasteless, easily forgotten."
Testing for radon involves putting the kit in your home. How long depends on the test.
January is a good time to test for radon because homes tend to be sealed up then, said Cathy Sandmann, community health supervisor for the county.
Cancer risks posed by radon are cumulative, so she said it's never too late to get tested.
If high levels are detected, the radon can be removed for between $800 and about $2,500.
A new law going into effect this year mandates all new houses built in Minnesota need to have a radon-mitigation system built in. While they can't prevent radon altogether, new homes will have a system to remove it at the flip of a switch.
For more information about radon testing and mitigation, or to request a free test kit, call the MSU Radon Project at 389-1977 or visit http://www.mnsu.edu/radon/
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