National Radon Action Month

Ahem. The EPA has designed January as “National Radon Action Month”:

Pretty great, right? But for those readers reluctant to take advice from a Lego figure, here’s an overview:

What’s radon, anyway? Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is released as uranium in the soil breaks down.  It is also the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the number two cause (after tobacco) of death among smokers (see this factsheet from the World Health Organization for details).

Minnesota, like some other states in the upper midwest, has a high level of naturally occurring radon (the curious can find a county-by-county breakdown here).  Add to that our long winters indoors, with windows sealed tight–and you’ve got a serious public health problem.  According to a press release from the Minnesota Department of Health, one in three homes here has levels of radon that “pose a significant health risk” to their residents.

Wait — how does it get inside my home? Radon can enter a home through a number of pathways: cracks in foundations, spaces behind walls, through floor joints and crawlspaces.  Once inside, it can concentrate–particularly during the winter months, when ventilation may be less than adequate.

What can I do about it? First of all, have your residence tested. The MDH provides low-cost, short-term radon test kits here. If your home contains levels of radon above 4 pCi/L, the EPA recommends that you take action as soon as possible. By sealing up cracks or other radon routes and setting up a “radon reduction system” to mitigate the impact of any remaining gas, you’ll protect your health and the health of your loved ones.

For more facts on radon, check out a brochure from the Minnesota Department of Health, available here: