Radon: The Gas That Kills Silently

Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas found in Michigan homes that kills thousands each year.

As Punxatauney Phil and Michigan’s own Groundhog, Woody, predicted six more weeks of winter, Michigan residents retreated back into their homes to hunker down until the first signs of spring. For many residents that means exposure to an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that kills silently.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that’s produced from the natural breakdown of uranium which is found in soil, rock, and well water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused by radon each year. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you’re at high risk for developing lung cancer.

Easy Testing for Radon Available

The good news is that radon is easily detectable with testing kits available from your county health department. There are two type of kits, short-term test and a long-term test. Because the concentration of radon can vary from season to season, homes should be tested in the winter when windows are closed and radon potentially at its highest level.

The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the device. Because radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level.

Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. “Alpha track” and “electret” detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to provide a year-round average radon level than a short-term test.

Take Action if Radon Levels are More than 4pCi/L

The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picocuries per liter of air,” or pCi/L. The EPA recommends taking action to remove or mitigate radon when levels are 4 pCi/L or higher. While it is not possible to completely eliminate radon, levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.

Radon Test Kits Available at County Health Departments

Livingston County Health Department, Environmental Health
Low cost radon test kits are available. Call 517-546-9850 for more information.

Macomb County Health Department, Environmental Health
Radon Test Kits are available free of charge to all Macomb County Residents at
Central Health Center, 43525 Elizabeth Road, Mt. Clemens, MI 48043, 586-469-5236
Southwest Health Center, 27690 Van Dyke, Warren, MI 48093, 586-465-8030

Monroe County Health Department, Environmental Services
Radon test kits are available. Call the main office location at 734-240-7800 or 1-888-354-5500 for more information.

Oakland County, Health Division
Purchase a radon test kit for $5 (during the month of January only) at the following locations:
North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N Telegraph, Bldg. 34 East, Pontiac, MI 48341
South Oakland Health Center, 27725 Greenfield Rd, Southfield, MI 48076

Washtenaw County Health Department, Environmental Health
Washtenaw County Environmental Health has short-term test kits available for $10 each, which includes the cost of postage and laboratory analysis. The test kits can be purchased at the Western County Service Center, located at 705 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Test kits can also be mailed for an additional $2 to cover postage and handling. For questions or to order a test kit by mail, please call Angie Parsons at  734-222-3869.

Ypsilanti Township also sells test kits for $10 at the Tilden R. Stumbo Civic Center, inside the Ypsilanti Township Supervisor’s Office, located at 7200 S. Huron River Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Please call (734) 481-0617 for office hours and questions.

To order radon kits online for $9.95, visit http://mi.radon.com. These are the same type of kits distributed at the Washtenaw County offices listed above.

Wayne County Health Department, Environmental Services
Testing is best done in the winter months, when windows and doors are kept closed. Test kits are available at no charge to Wayne County residents. (One test kit per household, please.) They can be picked up at Wayne County Health Department, Health Admin Building, 33030 Van Born Road, Wayne, MI 48184, 734-727-7000