February 10, 2012
Local nonprofits take action against radon gas
High levels of naturally occurring radon gas in your home can pose a significant risk of lung cancer, but proper new construction or remodeling can greatly reduce or eliminate the risk of exposure to radon. Two Twin Cities area nonprofits were recently recognized by the Minnesota Department of Health for their exemplary efforts to build or retrofit homes that are virtually radon-free.
Project for Pride in Living (PPL) has recently incorporated a radon mitigation system into its "Health House" located in the Hawthorne Eco Village in Minneapolis. The home meets four major environmental standards including:
- US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation.
- The American Lung Association Health House designation.
- Energy Star 5 Star plus rating.
- Minnesota Green Communities designation.
The home has been made even healthier with the addition of a radon mitigation system which has lowered radon levels to 1.3 pCi/L. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that any home over 4.0 pCi/L poses an increased risk of lung cancer.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has been building homes with radon resistant features for several years. Fifty-five new homes were completed by Twin Cities Habitat in 2011with the assistance of an estimated 23,000 volunteers and numerous donors, including the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Habitat Twin Cities builds homes to the MDH Gold Standard, which includes a system that actively reduces radon levels, surpassing the effectiveness of a passive system currently required by code. MDH Commissioner Edward Ehlinger recently awarded Habitat Twin Cities a certificate of appreciation for building the most Gold Standard homes in 2011.
MDH estimates that one in three existing Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose a large health risk over many years of exposure. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and more than 21,000 deaths are attributed to radon each year. Radon exposure, however, is a preventable health threat.
Radon is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so the only way for homeowners to know if their home has radon is to test. Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes 3-5 days. Most test kits are priced under $20 and are available at city and county health departments, many hardware stores, or directly from radon testing laboratories.
Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. Tests should not be done in laundry or utility rooms, kitchens or bathrooms. Once you have tested, further action can be taken based upon your results. If your home's level is over 4 PiC/L, you should consider verification testing and having a radon mitigation system installed. Anyone interested in mitigating his or her home for radon should consult MDH's list of certified radon mitigation contractors at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/mitigation.html.
For more information on radon testing and mitigation in new and existing homes visit www.health.state.mn.us/radon or call the Minnesota Department of Health Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050.
MDH Indoor Air Unit