Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless radioactive gas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country, surpassed only by tobacco use.
“Fortunately, exposure to radon gas can be easily detected with a radon testing kit,” said Kendzierski. “If homeowners discover elevated radon levels in the home, Health Department staff is available for consult to help homeowners resolve the problem,” he said.
Radon occurs naturally in soil and rock, but being a gas, it can move upward through the soil and enters buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation floor or walls. Typical entry points include floor/wall joints, sump openings, crawlspaces, cracks in the floor, and other penetrations caused by plumbing, wiring, or ductwork.
“Radon is diluted outdoors by the atmosphere, but indoors it tends to be more concentrated and can accumulate to unhealthy levels,” Kendzierski said. “Because it is invisible and can’t be smelled, radon is easy to ignore—it doesn’t cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, or other warning symptoms.”
Testing is easy and, during National Radon Action Week, free. The do-it-yourself kits are available at Health Department offices in Bellaire, Charlevoix, Petoskey/Harbor Springs, and Gaylord. After National Radon Action Week, test kits are $15 including postage to an out-of-state laboratory as well as the lab testing and report mailed back to the homeowner.
According to Kendzierski, 20.4% of the samples tested throughout the Health Department’s four-county health district over the past year indicate results above the EPA recommended action guideline of four picocuries per liter. Maps of radon results by county are posted on the agency’s website. But Kendzierski is quick to add, “the only way to know if your home has an elevated radon level is to test your home.”
Radon Action Week is an annual commemorative event initiated in 1990 by Congressional Resolution and later incorporated into National Indoor Air Quality Month, which takes place every October. Radon Action Week serves to encourage Americans to test their homes for radon, and if necessary, take action to reduce their exposure.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information, visit www.nwhealth.org or contact your local health department office.