County health departments offer radon test kits

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 18, 2017

 Discounted or even free radon kits will be available for half off at county health departments through the end of January.

Discounted or even free radon kits will be available for half off at county health departments through the end of January.

Image provided by the Oakland County Health Division

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METRO DETROIT — It’s easy to protect your family against the threats you can see: You lock your doors and windows at night, you make sure you turned the coffee pot off before you leave the house, and you trim the low-hanging branch hovering dangerously over the roof.

But the less obvious threats to our safety can be just as scary, even if we can’t see, hear or smell them. And that’s exactly what radon gas is, according to Andrew Cox, environmental health director at the Macomb County Health Department.

“It’s one of those things a lot of us aren’t aware of. It’s an odorless, colorless gas and can be a true worry for people with chronic exposure, because breathing the gas can cause lung cancer,” Cox explained. “Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and the highest cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.”

Radon gas, Cox said, is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the Earth and its soil. Sometimes it’s able to permeate into a home through lower-level entry points, like cracks in a house’s foundation, sump pumps and basement windows.

And since it’s so inconspicuous, the only way to truly be sure your family isn’t being exposed to radon is to test for it.

“You don’t wait until we have symptoms to find out if you’ve got radon, because the symptoms are the symptoms of lung cancer. You might expect headaches or nausea like you get with other gases, but you’re just not going to get that with radon,” said Kathy Forzley, manager and health officer at the Oakland County Health Division.

Through the end of January, health departments for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties are offering free or discounted radon testing kits. In Macomb County, the normally $14 kits will be available for free at the department’s Mount Clemens and Warren locations. In Oakland County, the kits will be available for $5 at the department’s Pontiac and Southfield locations. In Wayne County, the kits are available to residents for no charge at the Wayne County Health Administration Building in the city of Wayne.

“We do this in January not only to promote National Radon Action Month, but because it’s really the best time to test for radon, since most of us tend to have the doors and windows closed up and the gas won’t be vented out,” said Cox.

The kits are easy to administer and typically left on a home’s lowest level — ideally a basement — to test for the gas. Then the kits are sent to a facility for analysis, and the results are reported back to homeowners. 

If a home does show a higher level of radon, don’t worry: The health department can connect you to appropriate contractors or the Environmental Protection Agency to mitigate the problem with improved venting measures. 

“It’s estimated that one out of every 15 homes has elevated radon levels, and there’s no real pattern as to where you might find it. So, everyone really should be testing their living environment,” Forzley said.

For more information, including addresses for Oakland Health Centers in Pontiac and Southfield where kits can be obtained, visit oakgov.com or call (248) 858-1312.

For information on where to obtain kits in Macomb County, visit health.macombgov.org or call (586) 469-5236.

To inquire about radon kits in Wayne County, visit waynecounty.com/hhs or call the Health Administration Building at (734) 727-7000.

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