Protect your health by testing for Radon

January is National Radon Awareness Month and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is encouraging residents to improve their awareness of radon, its health effects, and how to reduce their risk of exposure. The department is offering free radon test kits and information to all citizens to promote awareness and reduce the health risks associated with radon exposure.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and scientists estimate that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year are related to radon. It’s been proven to be a significant risk in the western Upper Peninsula. Within the past year, elevated levels of radon have been detected in homes of all western Upper Peninsula counties including Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon Counties.

Radon is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It may enter a building through cracks or openings in the foundation. The only way to know if you and your family are at risk for radon exposure is to test your home. Conducting a radon test is simple and free test kits are available at every health department office.

If your home does have an elevated level of radon, a qualified contractor can make repairs to solve the problem and protect your family. The most common method involves installing a vent pipe and fan which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. Both the health department and Environmental Protection Agency have information on the techniques used to reduce radon levels in homes. It is important to retest your home after repairs have been made to evaluate whether the risk of radon has been mitigated to a safe level.

If you are building a new home, radon venting features are easy to install at the time of construction. Since radon has been proven to be present in the western Upper Peninsula, all homes are at risk for high levels of radon. With this in mind, it is often much cheaper to construct radon resistant homes and control systems than to remodel later to control for radon.

Testing is the first step to determining if you and your family are exposed to unsafe levels of radon and the department offers free radon test kits to assist with this step. If you have previously tested and found that your home has elevated levels, the department also offers information on radon mitigation. Radon test kits, additional information and educational materials on how to repair or build your house to prevent the entry of radon are available from the WUPHD during normal business hours of Monday through Friday 8AM-4PM.