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Extension > Source - Winter 2008 > Reduce risks posed by dangerous radon gas

Reduce risks posed by dangerous radon gas

Radon radar: Extension reduces risks posed by dangerous radon gas

Bill Angell

Extension housing specialist Bill Angell trains builders and other housing-related professionals how to prevent and fix radon problems.

You can't see it. You can't smell it and it has no taste. Yet this natural byproduct of radioactive decay is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks Minnesota fourth-highest in the nation with dangerously high levels of radon, a Class A carcinogen known to cause cancer in humans.

Extension housing specialist Bill Angell, chair of the WHO International Radon Project's Mitigation and Prevention Working Group, says: "Our risk is higher in Minnesota partly due to our geology"—soil in the Upper Midwest contains widespread uranium and radium—"and partly due to having our homes closed up so much of the year to stay warm."

Extension focuses on training professionals to help Minnesota homeowners. If you use a test kit and discover your home has high radon levels—or if you consult a radon-measurement expert—the people you hire to deal with the problem have most likely been trained by Extension.

"My experience comes from understanding buildings, why some have elevated risk and some do not," Angell says. "I train others to prevent problems in new homes and fix homes that have high levels of radon." Thanks to Angell, Minnesota was first to establish a statewide building code to reduce radon in new homes. Angell continues to collaborate with building professionals and other scientists worldwide.

"What excited me about this work in Extension is using local and international research to reduce loss of life in Minnesota," says Angell. "It truly is an international partnership."

Visit Extension's Housing Technology site for more information on radon resources in Minnesota.

Radon facts

  • The only way to know if your home has high levels of radon is to test for it.
  • Because radon is more concentrated at lower levels, basement bedrooms cause the greatest risk.
  • Radon levels can vary from house to house.
  • Radon testing is cheap and easy.
  • Radon-reduction systems can reduce even very high radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent.

For more information, visit Radon in Minnesota Homes.

See more information on Radon Test Kits.

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