by Dennis Dalman
Two out of five Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas, according to Stearns County Environmental Services, which is now offering free radon-test kits to residents.
January was National Radon Action Month when residents are encouraged to test homes for radon and to mitigate the leakage of radioactive radon gas into homes.
There are 200 of the kits available, which will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out if Stearns County still has test kits available, contact Environmental Services at 320-656-3613.
The kits can be picked up at the Environmental Services Office on the second floor of the Stearns County Service Center in Waite Park. The service center is located at 3301 CR 138 to the southwest of the Fleet Farm store. The center’s business hours are 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Kits can also be picked up at the drive-thru of the Household Hazardous Waste Facility, 3601 Fifth St. S., also in Waite Park. That facility is open from 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m.-noon on the second and third Saturdays of each month.
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that seeps up from the ground into homes. When inhaled, it gives off radioactive particles that can damage the lungs. More than 21,000 lung-cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year, and it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The good news is the risk is largely preventable.
Since so many Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas, it’s important residents get their homes tested. Fortunately, testing is easy to do. And then, if radon is detected, it is possible to fix the problem.
A variety of radon test kits are also available online or at many home-improvement stores.
What is radon?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is a radioactive gas that forms naturally when the radioactive metals uranium, thorium or radium break down in rocks, soil or groundwater. The released gas can then seep into homes through cracks or gaps in homes’ foundations. Breathing those odorless, invisible gas fumes can then damage people’s lungs.
To find out more about radon dangers and how to obtain test kits online, visit the EPA’s website at epa.gov/radon.