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Radon testing during home purchases declined nearly 40% in 2022

Real estate transaction is a key time to identify and reduce cancer-causing gas, according to Minnesota Department of Health officials.

Steven Reichert clears debris as he installs a radon mitigation system.
Steven Reichert clears debris as he installs a radon mitigation system.
Will Matsuda/MPR News
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ST. PAUL — The number of home radon tests completed during real estate sales in 2022 was down 39% from 2020, even though home sales did not decline, a new analysis from the Minnesota Department of Health shows.

Reduced testing means fewer home buyers are identifying and reducing this cancer-causing hazard, according to a news release, and while there are ways to test for radon and fix it, many people are unaware of the risks.

The state health department analyzed professional radon testing data for 2020 to 2022 and found that in 2022 there were 19,976 real estate tests reported by professionals, which was lower than the 32,537 tests reported in 2020.

The colorless, odorless gas occurs naturally in Minnesota soils and is found at elevated levels in about 40% of all Minnesota homes. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. In fact, each year radon kills more than 21,000 people across the country.

Fortunately, the radon risk is largely preventable by testing homes and reducing radon problems by installing radon reduction systems. Real estate transactions present an opportunity for home buyers to reduce their lung cancer risk. If the radon level is high, buyers could request sellers install a radon mitigation system.

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With more people working from home, it’s more important than ever to test homes for radon, health officials say. During January, Radon Action Month, the health department is making a special push to urge everyone to test their home for radon, including when purchasing a property.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in radon testing reported to us during home sales,” said Dan Tranter, Minnesota Health Department indoor air program supervisor, in the release. “During the hot housing market in the last couple of years, some home buyers were skipping home inspections and radon tests.”

Health professionals recommend testing for radon during real-estate transactions. Sellers must disclose any prior radon testing and provide a two-page publication to buyers under state law. Radon tests should be incorporated into a home inspection.

The state licenses home inspectors and other professionals who test for radon. A list of currently licensed radon measurement professionals can be found on the “Find a Radon Measurement Professional” page on the Minnesota State Health Department website.

The average radon level in Minnesota homes is about 4.2 picoCuries per Liter. The state recommends installing a radon mitigation system when the radon level is at 4 pCi/L or above. This winter, the health department is partnering with local public health departments and other organizations to make test kits available to all Minnesotans at low or no cost. Participating agencies and vendors can be found on the state’s Radon Testing website. Hardware stores may also stock test kits. Licensed professionals can also conduct testing.

Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. Test devices are usually placed in the home for two to five days. The best time to test is during the heating season, but testing can be done year-round.

In homes with high radon levels, radon reduction typically involves installing a venting pipe and fan to pull the gas from under the home to the outside. Professionals conducting radon mitigation must be licensed by the state, follow standards, and affix a health department tag to the system.

A list of licensed radon mitigation professionals can be found on the Find a Radon Mitigation Professional page on the health department’s website.

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The department conducts free inspections of radon mitigation systems installed after June 1, 2020. The inspections ensure systems were installed correctly. Contact the health department’s Indoor Air Unit to request an inspection at health.indoorair@state.mn.us .

More information about radon in Minnesota is available on the health department’s website at Radon in Homes or by calling the state’s Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

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