Radon Testing Takes Center Stage with Wright County-inspired Law

The legislation carried through last year's session was inspired by suburban areas like Wright County. Radon thrives in farmland-turned-exurbian area.

A radon mitigation kit. (Patch file photo)
A radon mitigation kit. (Patch file photo)

A new law requiring more detailed disclosure and information about radon in Minnesota homes during most residential real estate transactions will go into effect January 1, 2014, state health officials said today.

The Minnesota Radon Awareness Act requires sellers to inform buyers whether their home has been tested for radon and if so, what the levels are and whether the home has been mitigated for radon.

Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. More than 21,000 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year in the U.S.

One of the worst counties, in fact, for Minnesota is Wright County, according to research done by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Patch met up with one family two years ago who took on radon in their home. 

Fortunately, the risk is largely preventable, by testing homes and fixing radon problems. About 2 in 5 Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and state health officials say every home should be tested.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in Minnesota soils. It can enter into all kinds of homes through cracks or openings in walls or foundations. The only way for residents to know if their home has radon is to test.

According to the new disclosure law, sellers will need to provide three kinds of information to buyers before signing a purchase agreement to sell or transfer residential property:

  1. A radon disclosure form that includes a.) whether a radon test has occurred; b.) records of radon concentrations; c.) a description of any radon concentrations, mitigation, or remediation; and d.) information regarding the radon mitigation system.
  2. A radon warning statement outlining the health risks of radon, the potential for radon in Minnesota homes and recommending testing.
  3. A two-page publication entitled "Radon in Real Estate Transactions" that provides more details on radon topics.

Considering that there are approximately 100,000 home sales per year in Minnesota, increasing radon awareness during real estate transactions has the potential to increase radon testing and mitigation of homes significantly, according to indoor air specialists at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "This law will help improve the health and safety of Minnesotans by informing home buyers about the harmful effects of radon gas at the point of sale," said Dan Tranter, indoor air program supervisor for MDH. "This allows potential buyers to be educated on radon and to request a radon test be performed on the property in a similar manner as home inspections are requested and conducted."

Experience in others states has shown that once a buyer is aware of a radon problem, many will elect to install a radon reduction system, Tranter said. In Illinois, the rate of homes tested during real estate transactions increased 400 percent after the passage of that state's radon awareness act. Currently, about 30 percent of home sales in Illinois have a radon test conducted during the purchase process.

Radon tests can be incorporated into a home inspection. The law does not require radon testing or mitigation; only disclosure of whether testing or mitigation of the home has been done.

Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes 3-5 days. The best time to test is during the heating seasons, but testing can be done year-round. Test kits are available at city and county health departments, many hardware stores, or directly from radon testing laboratories. A list of participating health agencies and test kit vendors can be found on the MDH website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/rncontacts.html.

Closer to home, short term ($6) or long term ($12) kits can be purchased through the county. Stop in to the Wright County Human Services Center, 1004 Commercial Drive, Buffalo, MN 55313-1736, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or, check out the WOW Wellness Van the next time it stops at in Albertville.

Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. If your home's level is at or above 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.

January is National Radon Action Month and Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed it Radon Action Month in Minnesota. During the month of January, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is sponsoring radio ads in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota to encourage people to test their homes. In addition, MDH has partnered with local public health departments to make test kits available to local residents at low or no cost.

To see how radon has affected the lives of cancer patients and their families visit www.CanSar.org.

JP January 03, 2014 at 09:58 AM
What you don't know can and will hurt you. Test your home so you can protect yourself and your family.
Radon Testing January 11, 2014 at 02:14 AM
Recent residential studies have now confirmed that exposure to high radon concentration in a household carries with it severe health risks. Until recently, the general perception held by most Canadians was that problems concerning radon were limited to remote communities and even then it was not that serious an issue. We now know that this is not the case. http://www.radoncontrol.ca


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