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New disclosure law helps to increase number of homes fixed to reduce radon levels

The number of homes fixed in the last year to remove radon doubled over previous years, and the increase may be due in large part to a new state law, state health officials said.

The number of homes fixed in the last year to remove radon doubled over previous years, and the increase may be due in large part to a new state law, state health officials said.

The law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, requires more detailed disclosure and information be provided to buyers about radon during Minnesota home sales. Most of the additional home mitigations occurred as part of real estate transactions, according to data collected by the Minnesota Department of Health from contractors. During the first nine months of 2014, at least 2,389 homes had work done to reduce radon levels; the average for the previous two years was 1,279.

The Minnesota Radon Awareness Act requires sellers to inform buyers whether their home has been tested for radon and if so, what the levels are and whether the home has been mitigated for radon. In addition, sellers must provide a warning statement and a two-page publication to the buyer.

Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. More than 21,000 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year in the U.S.

Fortunately, the risk is largely preventable, by testing homes and fixing radon problems. About two in five Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and state health officials say every home should be tested.

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Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in Minnesota soils. It can enter into all kinds of homes through cracks or openings in walls or foundations. The only way for residents to know if their home has radon is to test.

Considering that there are approximately 100,000 home sales per year in Minnesota, increasing radon awareness during real estate transactions was expected to increase radon testing and mitigation of homes, according to indoor air specialists at state health department. "This law is improving the health and safety of Minnesotans by informing home buyers about the harmful effects of radon gas at the point of sale," said Dan Tranter, indoor air program supervisor for Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in a news release. "This allows potential buyers to be educated on radon and to request a radon test be performed on the property in a similar manner as home inspections are requested and conducted."

To help real estate professionals with the new law, MDH staff over the past year taught 60 classes across the state attended by 1,578 real estate professionals. The health department continues to offer these continuing education classes, as well as classes on mold and carbon monoxide, at no cost to real estate professionals. Real estate companies and associations that are interested in the classes can review the course information at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/reestatetrain.html .

Radon tests may be incorporated into a home inspection. The law does not require radon testing or mitigation; only disclosure of whether testing or mitigation of the home have been done.

Testing is easy, inexpensive and only takes a few days. The best time to test is during the heating seasons, but testing can be done year-round. Test kits are available at city and county health departments, many hardware stores, or directly from radon testing laboratories. A list of participating health agencies and test kit vendors may be found on the MDH website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/rncontacts.html .

Tests should be done in the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. If your home's level is at or above 4 piC/L, you should consider verification testing and having a radon mitigation system installed. Anyone interested in mitigating his or her home for radon should consult MDH's list of certified radon mitigation contractors at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/mitigation.html .

January is National Radon Action Month and Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Radon Action Month in Minnesota. During the month of January, the Minnesota Department of Health is sponsoring radio and Internet ads in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota to encourage people to test their homes. In addition, MDH has partnered with local public health departments to make test kits available to local residents at low or no cost.

For more information on radon testing and mitigation, visit http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/radon/index.html or call the Minnesota Department of Health Indoor Air Unit at 651-201-4601 or 800-798-9050. To see how radon has affected the lives of cancer patients and their families, visit www.CanSar.org .

Related Topics: HEALTH
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