Homeowners urged to test for radon this month

By: Mary Beth Almond | Metro | Published January 26, 2022

 The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy distributes radon test kits, including this one by Air Check Inc., to local health departments across the state for at-home radon testing.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy distributes radon test kits, including this one by Air Check Inc., to local health departments across the state for at-home radon testing.

Image provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy

 The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s map of Michigan includes the percentage of elevated radon test results by county. According to the data, 29% of homes in Oakland County test above the action level, 11% in Macomb County have elevated radon levels and 17% of homes in Wayne County test above the state’s radon action level.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s map of Michigan includes the percentage of elevated radon test results by county. According to the data, 29% of homes in Oakland County test above the action level, 11% in Macomb County have elevated radon levels and 17% of homes in Wayne County test above the state’s radon action level.

Image provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy

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METRO DETROIT — You can’t see it or smell it, but radon gas in your home can be a serious health hazard. 

Radon is a cancer-causing, naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil and rock that enters homes through openings in the foundation floor or walls, wherever the foundation is in contact with the soil. 

Although radon harmlessly disperses in outdoor air at low levels, when trapped in buildings and homes, it can be hazardous, especially at high concentrations.

“Radon gas, as it breaks down into smaller particles, can be damaging to our lung tissue, increasing our risk of developing lung cancer with prolonged exposure to elevated levels of radon,” said Leslie E. Smith III, indoor radon specialist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Behind smoking, Smith said, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and is considered a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for about 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. 

Elevated radon levels have been found in buildings in all 83 Michigan counties, according to Smith, who said testing is even more important now that many Michiganders are working from home.

“Since we are spending more time in our home, we should know what our radon levels are,” he explained.

The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it, which experts say is best done in the winter months, when windows and doors are kept closed. 

During January, which is National Radon Action Month, the Oakland County Health Department is offering radon test kits at half price, for $5, while the Macomb County Health Department is mailing the kits to residents for free while supplies last. In Wayne County, residents can call the Wayne County Health, Human & Veterans Services department for more information on how to obtain a radon testing kit at (734) 727-7400.

The testing kits offered by the health departments should be placed in the lowest level of the house and left for two to three days. 

“Right now, the recommended radon action level is at or above 4.0 picocuries per liter. That’s when you would want to get your home retested with a long-term radon testing kit, and then you could work with a radon mitigation specialist to help improve the conditions in your house,” said Claudia Terrell, from the Oakland County Health Division’s Department of Environmental Health Services.

Although radon poses a serious threat to our health, Smith said high radon concentrations also are easily fixed. 

“If, after taking additional testing, you find out that the radon levels are still elevated in the home, homeowners are recommended to take steps to reduce that,” he said. “One of the ways to do that is to call a mitigation contractor about installing a radon mitigation system, which is designed to pull the radon gas from underneath the home and discharge it outdoors, so that there is less radon coming into the home from underneath the house. That’s one of the most effective ways to do so.”

In Oakland County, radon kits are available at health division offices at the North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34E in Pontiac; and the South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Road in Southfield. After January, the cost of a radon test kit will return to $10. If high levels of radon are found, homeowners are urged to contact the Oakland County Health Division’s Environmental Health Services. 

In Macomb County, residents can have a testing kit mailed to them by calling the Macomb County Health Department at (586) 469-5236 or sending an email to environmental.health@macombgov.org. Requests for no-cost testing kits must be received by Feb. 4. Testing kits will not be distributed to residents at any Macomb County Health Department offices or facilities. If high levels of radon are found, homeowners are urged to contact the Macomb County Health Division’s Environmental Health Services.

Homeowners are encouraged to test for radon every two to five years. 

Those who’ve had a radon mitigation system previously installed are encouraged to test every two years to make sure that radon levels remain in the acceptable range.

For more information about radon, visit www.michigan.gov/radon, call the indoor radon hotline at (800) 723-6642, or contact your local county health department’s environmental health division. 

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