MDH urges Minnesotans to test homes for cancer-causing radon

State health officials are urging Minnesotans to test their homes for a chemical that is known to cause cancer.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says radon is the leading cause of cancer in people who’ve never smoked, and more than 40% of homes in the state have dangerously high radon levels.

The recommendation comes during National Radon Action Month.

“The only way to know if your home has high radon levels is to test, but only about 1% or 2% of Minnesota homes are tested annually,” said Dr. Brooke Cunningham, MDH’s commissioner. “Another concern is that, although radon occurs throughout the state, there are notable disparities in where the testing and mitigation are taking place.”

An interactive map on the department’s website shows that testing and mitigation are less frequent in communities with lower incomes in the Twin Cities metro and also in the northern and southwestern parts of the state.

Officials say Minnesota has unusually high radon levels because of its unique geology and cold climate, and American Lung Association analysis estimated that nearly 18% of the state’s 638 lung cancer cases in 2018 were radon-induced.

“Radon is a serious public health issue in Minnesota, and we urge everyone to test their home for radon this month,” said Jill Heins-Nesvold, national senior director of health systems improvement and indoor air quality at the American Lung Association.

Fortunately, radon tests are available and pretty cheap. They can be found at hardware and home improvement stores or ordered online through the state.

Some local governments, including Minneapolis, are also giving out some test kits for free.

More information on radon is available online.