Free radon test kits this week

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is offering FREE test kits Jan. 21-25 for residents to test their homes for radon—a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that causes lung cancer.


January is Radon Awareness Month, and health departments across Northern Michigan are encouraging citizens to test their homes for this common gas. Radon can reside at dangerous levels inside homes, schools and other buildings. Because you can’t see it or smell it, and radon causes no immediate symptoms, testing is the only way to know if there is radon in your home.

Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking. Radon-related lung cancers are responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually in the United States, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

“Radon is natural in the environment, but it becomes dangerous when it builds up indoors,” said Scott Kendzierski, director of Environmental Health at the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “In the winter especially, when windows stay closed all the time, radon can rise to very high levels in homes. If you breathe it, it can cause lung cancer.”

Most homes contain some concentration of radon and should be tested. About 12% of homes in Michigan have unsafe levels of radon. In some counties, as many as 45% of homes are at risk. With testing, radon is easy to detect and remove from your home. Through consultation with the health department and certified contractors, inexpensive mitigation systems can be installed which lower concentrations of radon to safe levels.

Radon gas forms when small amounts of radium and uranium in the ground start to break down. Most soils in our area contain some amount of these radioactive elements, so radon can be found anywhere. The gas becomes dangerous when it becomes trapped indoors and builds up to high levels.

Radon enters homes through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings.

Residents of Emmet, Charlevoix, Otsego, and Antrim counties can get a free radon test kit by calling (800) 432-4121.