Michigan's Ongoing Battle Against the Silent Danger of Radon Exposure
Recent data from the State of Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reveals a concerning health issue - approximately one in four Michigan homes are expected to have radon levels above the recommended federal action level. Radon, a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., trailing only behind smoking.
January is Radon Action Month in Michigan, aiming to raise awareness of the dangers posed by radon.
According to EGLE, Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas resulting from the decay of radium and uranium in soil and rocks. As a Class A carcinogen, radon's link to lung cancer is well-established. In the United States, radon-related lung cancer claims about 21,000 lives annually. The risk of lung cancer from radon depends on several factors, including the radon concentration in one's living environment, duration of exposure, and smoking history. Notably, exposure to elevated radon levels does not cause immediate symptoms like headaches or nausea, making it challenging to detect without specific testing. Hence, it is called “the silent killer.”
Testing for radon is the only way to identify its presence. Homeowners are advised to conduct radon tests every two years due to the changing nature of home structures and foundations. Should tests reveal radon levels at or above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommends installing a radon mitigation system.
EGLE has a new interactive map showing Michigan radon levels according to zip code.
- 48118 showed an average of 5 pCi/L with a median of 4.
- 48130 showed an average of 6 pCi/L with a median of 4
- 48103 showed an average of 5 pCi/L with a median of 3
- 48176 showed an average of 6 pCi/L with a median of 3
Radon mitigation systems, which typically cost between $800 and $1,500 in Michigan, vary in design but commonly use pipes and fans to vent radon gases outside the home. These systems are effective, often reducing radon levels below the recommended action level. Homeowners are encouraged to take proactive steps, such as sealing cracks and openings in their homes, although these measures alone are often insufficient without a mitigation system. EGLE states, “Almost any radon level, regardless of how high it is, can be brought down to below the 4 pCi/l recommended action level.
Washtenaw County Health Department is providing radon test kits for $5 instead of the usual $10 through the end of February at the following locations:
- Washtenaw County Environmental Health Division - Open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday (closed for lunch from noon to 1:00 pm daily). Located in the Western County Service Center at 705 N Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.
- Ypsilanti City Clerk's Office - Open from 8:00 am. to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Located in Ypsilanti City Hall at 1 S Huron Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.
- Ypsilanti Township Residential Services Department - Open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday (closed daily for lunch from noon to 1:00 pm). Located in the Tilden R. Stumbo Civic Center at 7200 S Huron River Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.
- Sharon Township Hall - Open from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Thursdays. Located at 18010 Pleasant Lake Road, Manchester, MI 48158.
Radon test kits can also be purchased through many online venders. Residents can obtain further information and radon test kits by contacting 800-723-6642 (800-RADONGAS) or visiting the Radon Testing and Mitigation Contractors Web page.