Health Department encourages radon testing

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published January 12, 2018

 The Macomb County Health Department is stressing radon testing in the home by giving away free testing kits to the public.

The Macomb County Health Department is stressing radon testing in the home by giving away free testing kits to the public.

Photo by Julie Snyder

MACOMB COUNTY — Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that, if accumulated at high levels, can be dangerous.

A natural chemical that emits from rocks and soil, radon levels inside the home tend to increase significantly during the winter months when doors and windows stay shut.

That’s why January is Radon Action Month, a time to encourage the public to live a healthy winter by taking lifesaving measures.

Macomb County Health Director Bill Ridella said that while radon testing kits are available for free to the public all year long, officials want to stress the importance of obtaining a kit at the start of each year because radon isn’t something that’s on many people’s minds.

“Winter is simply a better time to test for radon because your house is more closed up than it is in the summer,” Ridella said. “It’s important to note that while there will always be a positive reading for radon in every home, it may not be at what is called an action level. While there could be a very low level of radon at one home, there can be a very high level at the house next door.”

Radon production occurs naturally in soil and rocks. It moves upward through the soil and enters buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation floor or walls. Once it is indoors, radon can accumulate to unhealthy levels.

Radon exposure does not cause any symptoms immediately, yet extended exposure to elevated radon levels increases one’s risk of lung cancer.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers in America, and it claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. The EPA and the U.S. surgeon general urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon.

Stacey McFarland, with the county’s Environmental Health Services Office, said it’s best to place the kit at the lowest level in the home, preferably the basement. Though the kit, which is comprised of activated charcoal, is not dangerous to children or pets, it’s best to keep it in a place where it cannot be disturbed.

McFarland added that it’s important for people to remember to correctly fill out the card that comes with the kit, indicating a start date and time when the test began followed by the end date and time. Testing usually takes about four to seven days. Once the testing is completed, the postmarked envelope in which the charcoal is kept must be immediately mailed. The envelope is sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality laboratory, where turnaround for the results is approximately two weeks.

“The results most likely will be positive because radon is naturally occurring, but it depends on what level it is. ... If it’s at a peak action level, then you take measures to fix the problem,” she said.

The do-it-yourself test kits are available at the Macomb County Health Department, 43525 Elizabeth Road in Mount Clemens, as well as at the Warren office at 27690 Van Dyke Ave. The offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on radon and the free testing kits, call the Macomb County Health Department at (586) 469-5236 or visit health.macombgov.org/Health-Programs-EnvironmentalHealth-RiskAssessment-Radon.