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Residents should pick up a free radon test kit during Radon Action Month

HANCOCK — Radon can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted, but high levels of radon gas may be in residents’ homes, increasing their risk of lung cancer. Fortunately, testing is easy and high radon levels can be lowered. January is Radon Action Month and the Western UP Health Department offers free radon test kits. While test kits are available year around, the most accurate time to test is in the winter.

There are no warning symptoms to let you know you’re being exposed. It doesn’t cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, etc. The only way to know whether your home has a problem–or whether you are at risk–is to test.

Radon testing takes on increased importance with many Michiganders now working from home or spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is easy, inexpensive, and the only way to determine if a radon problem exists. Residents are encouraged to test for radon every two to five years. If a radon mitigation system was previously installed in the home, residents are encouraged to test every two years to make sure that radon levels remain in the acceptable range.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of radium. Radium, in turn, is a natural decay product of uranium. Both radium and uranium are found in almost any kind of soil and rock, often in very small amounts. Radon moves up though the soil and enters buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation, floor, or walls, including at floor/wall joints, sump openings, and other openings caused by plumbing, wiring, or ductwork.

Outdoors, radon is diluted by the atmosphere to safe levels. However, radon can concentrate in indoor air and reach unhealthy levels. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It is very important for residents to know their home’s radon level and to take action to lower it if it’s too high.

According to a Michigan survey, high levels of radon are expected in one out of eight Michigan homes. In some counties, as many as 45% of the homes have radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended action level (4 pCi/L). According to Tanya Rule, the Environmental Health Director of the Western UP Health Department; “Elevated radon levels have been detected in homes in all five counties of the Western U.P. Of the homes that have been tested in our area, 12% of homes in Houghton County tested above the action level, along with 11% in Gogebic County, 8% in Baraga County, 7% in Ontonagon County, and 5% of homes in Keweenaw County.”

The current 2019 data from the State only provides a percentage for each county. According to Ms. Rule, “WUPHD is working with the Geospatial Research Facility at Michigan Technological University to digitize all of our local radon data, which will provide detailed maps of areas of concern. This project will allow the health department to focus our public education and testing efforts on areas in our community with a known health concern.”

The only way to know if a home has high radon levels is to test it. The purpose of National Radon Action Month is to bring awareness to radon testing. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department urges residents of our community to take action this winter by testing your home for radon.

Please note our offices are closed to walk-in traffic. A free radon test kit can be obtained by clicking on “REQUEST A RADON TEST” on the health department’s home page at www.wuphd.org. Fill out the questionnaire to request a test kit and arrangements will be made for you to pick up the kit. If you don’t have online access, you can request a kit at 906-482-7382, extension 119.

For more information on radon and your health, please visit www.wupdhd.org/indoor-radon-testing-its-easy-its-free/.

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