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Radon Risks for Carver County Homeowners
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that some 21,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer due to breathing radon-polluted air. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer for Americans who do not smoke, and the second leading cause of deaths due to lung cancer in Americans who do smoke. If anyone in the household smokes in a home where high levels of radon are present, risks to respiratory health increase significantly.
So what is radon?
You won’t be able to see, smell, or taste the radon in your Minneapolis, Minnesota home—it’s an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas, the product of decaying radium in rock and soil. Radium is itself a product of decaying uranium under the ground, so anywhere uranium is present in the geology of an area, the threat of radon emission rises.
How does Carver County stand in terms of indoor radon pollution?
The national average radon level for American homes is 1.4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a measure of radioactivity. The annual average for homes in Carver County is almost 3 times as high. Almost 40% of Carver County and Minneapolis, Minnesota homes tested for radon were above 4 pCi/L. The EPA considers this level to be a signal to take immediate action. Another third of Carver County is estimated to test out between 2 and 3.9 pCi/L, a level considered by many health experts to be of enough concern to require radon reduction measures. The likelihood that your Minneapolis, Minnesota home has high levels of radon depends a great deal on the geological makeup of your particular property and the maintenance, depressurization, and structure of your home’s construction.
How does radon get into your home?
Since it is a gas, radon can seep into the bottom areas of your home from the rock and soil underneath or be pulled inside by your home’s negative pressure. Negative pressure occurs when fireplaces, wood stoves, and clothes dryers are used, as well as heating and cooling systems. Downdrafts due to winds blowing past your home can also push radon into your residence through cracks in structural formations such as block walls, concrete slabs, and ill-fitting pipes and drains. In areas where private wells are used, radon can enter your home’s air through showers and washing machines, though this is relatively rare.
How do you know the level of radon in your home?
The only sure way to know what level of radon is in your home is to test for it. You can test your home yourself by purchasing a test kit from your local hardware store, or you can hire a radon mitigation specialist to perform a radon detection test. A short-term test takes from 2 days to a week, while a long-term test takes up to 1 year. Short-term tests are often used in basements and under-house crawl spaces to get a quick read on radon levels, while long-term testing is often done in family living areas to assess the annual average level of indoor radon. Any reading over 4 pCi/L should prompt you to seek radon mitigation, according to the EPA.
What is radon mitigation?
Radon mitigation includes any measure taken to reduce or remove radon from your home. A certified radon mitigation professional assesses your level of risk and then consults with you about the appropriate action to take to bring the air in your home to safe levels. This action may be sealing up cracks in concrete, venting radon-laden air from a basement to the outdoors, covering the dirt floor of a crawl space with impermeable construction materials, or installing systems to depressurize your home. The cost of testing is low, usually less than $25 if you do it yourself. Radon mitigation services are generally cost-effective strategies to safeguard your family’s lung health.
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What Minnesota Homeowners Need to Know About Radon
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the air in your Minnesota home may be hazardous to your health due to radon. If your home was built on property with deposits of uranium underground and your structure was not sealed properly, radon may be seeping into your residence. This undetectable gas—the result of uranium decay—is generally harmless when emitted into outdoor air, but when radon is trapped inside your home, it poses a threat to respiratory health. The EPA reports that more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year are attributable to radon, and many more Americans are at risk for damage to their lungs because of the radon levels in their homes.
Minneapolis Minnesota is Invested With Radon
Minnesota, like much of the northern Midwest, has significant underground uranium deposits that are constantly in decay. According to the MDH, a third of Minnesota homes are likely to test positive for significantly high levels of indoor radon. The likelihood that your particular home contains dangerous levels of radon depends on several factors—the geology specific to your property, the structural integrity of your home, depressurization, and maintenance. These factors vary from home to home, so even if every neighbor on your block has tested for radon and been designated risk-free, your home may still have unhealthy levels of indoor radon.
Is Your Minneapolis Minnesota Home Protected From Radon?
Radon can enter your home through brickwork, cracks in concrete, dirt (for example, unsealed basement floors), ill-fitting or loose joints and pipes, and many other architectural and material avenues. The lowest part of the house usually has the highest concentration of radon, but it disperses throughout the home, reacting to the pull of negative pressure. Heating and cooling vents can blow radon-laden air into your home. Fireplaces, wood stoves, and clothes dryers can create a vacuum effect that draws radon indoors. Even the wind blowing past your home can create a downdraft that introduces radon into your residence.
Radon-The Silent Killer
According to the EPA, indoor radon levels of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) demand immediate action. The Minnesota Department of Health goes even further in encouraging the reduction of indoor radon levels, recommending radon mitigation when an annual average level is higher than 2 pCi/L. The presence of any level of radon in your home carries some health risk, however. Even at 2 pCi/L, radon is estimated to cause lung cancer in 4 out of every 1,000 people.
The only way to find out whether you and your family are at risk is to perform a radon detection test. Radon detection tests can be purchased from most hardware stores or radon reduction companies throughout Minnesota. For more information about which test to choose, how to perform the test, and what your specific results mean, contact your local radon mitigation professionals or consult the Minnesota Department of Health.