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Radon Action Month hits home in Northern Michigan

JANUARY 3 Winter in Northern Michigan means homes are closed up tight and that's the best possible time to test your home for cancer-causing radon. More than 21,000 Americans are killed each year by radon-induced lung cancer. That's why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as Radon Action Month.

Radon is detected often in homes throughout Northern Michigan. It is a radioactive gas that comes from decaying radium and uranium occurring naturally in the earth. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is odorless and invisible, so the only way to know if your home has a problem is to test for it. Radon levels can vary greatly from one home to the next. Fortunately, complete do-it-yourself test kits are available for just $15.00 through the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.

Bill Dietrich has been a real estate professional in Northwest Michigan for more than 40 years, working with home buyers, sellers and inspectors every day. He finally decided to test his own home in Charlevoix for the presence of radon. To his surprise, he discovered radon levels in his home exceeding the EPA's recommended action level.

"My wife and I were very concerned about the results, and wanted to know what we could do to resolve the problem," Dietrich said. "The Health Department was helpful in providing information and guidance as to what this meant, and what to do next." After some further testing, Dietrich contacted a certified radon contractor, who was able to correct the high radon level in his home with radon mitigation equipment. "The equipment was installed in one day, and has been effectively eliminating radon from our home for the past seven-plus years," he said, adding that follow-up tests have shown his home to have radon levels at or below those found in normal fresh air.

Dietrich says a large number of home buyers and sellers are not aware of the risks posed by radon. "I would recommend to buyers that they make radon testing part of their home inspection, or do it independently with the Health Department," he said. "Everyone should be informed and aware that elevated levels of radon in a home can be fixed not only for sale purposes, but for the health and wellbeing of the homeowner and family living in the home."

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. Radon test kits can be purchased for $15 in its Bellaire, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs/Petoskey and Gaylord offices; call (800) 432-4121 or visit for more information.