January is National Radon Action Month – an opportune time for Livingston County residents to test for radon in their homes, a health risk facing millions of Americans.
Because families are spending more time indoors during the winter months, January is a good time to test for this radioactive, invisible, odorless gas. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA estimates that approximately 21,100 lung cancer deaths each year are radon-related. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon enters buildings through openings in the foundation floor or walls (sump openings, crawlspaces, floor/wall joints, cracks, etc.). Radon can become trapped in buildings and lead to elevated and harmful radon levels.
One in eight Michigan homes is likely to have an elevated radon level. According to a study conducted by the MDEQ, radon is present in elevated levels in about 40% of Livingston County homes. Radon is tasteless, odorless, and colorless, and it has no warning symptoms (it does not cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, etc.). Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk for health issues caused by radon.
The Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) has short-term radon test kits available free of charge during the month of January and $5 throughout the year. Test kits can be picked up at the Environmental Health Division office, located at 2300 E. Grand River Ave. in Howell. Kits can also be picked up at participating local municipalities, while supplies last or purchased at local hardware stores, home improvement centers, some supermarkets, or directly from a laboratory.
The EPA recommends that houses with radon levels of 4 picocuries per liter or more of radon be fixed to prevent accumulation of the gas indoors. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors for a cost similar to that of many common home repairs, such as painting or having a new water heater installed (anywhere from $500 to about $2,500).
For more radon information, contact LCHD at (517) 546-9858, or the State of Michigan Radon Program at 1-800-RADON-GAS. Radon information can also be accessed by clicking here.