KARE 11 Investigation: Radon test results above EPA standards

4:55 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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BIG LAKE, Minn. - Every year, the environmental protection agency estimates 20,000 people die of lung cancer due to radon exposure.

Radon is a natural occurring gas that develops in the soil and can seep into your home's basement through cracks in the foundation.

In April, KARE 11 handed out 111 free radon kits to viewers to  test their homes. Of those kits handed out, 43 have reported findings to KARE 11.

The EPA recommends fixing your home if levels are four piccuries per liter or above. The highest level came from Hutchinson at nearly 22. The lowest in St. Paul at 0.8. The average came in above EPA standards at nearly five.

Kelly and Mike Nitz, of Big Lake, turned in one of the highest levels after their testing was complete. Their home recorded 10 piccuries per liter.

"This is something that can cause a real health risk and we did need to deal with it," Mike Nitz said.

The Nitz's lived in their home for 24 years but never tested for radon until they saw the KARE 11 story in April.

"We obviously don't just ignore it," Kelly Nitz said.

The family has moved their son, Ryan, upstairs from the basement until they fix the concern.

"I said until we deal with it, it's just a safer thing to be up here," said Kelly Nitz.

But the parents can't help but think about their two adult sons who slept downstairs for a few years before they left home.

"We've been here this many years and you start to think hopefully we haven't caused any problems," Kelly Nitz said.

Air Quality Scientist Joshua Kerber, with the Minnesota Health Department, says the first thing you should do if you have high radon levels in your home is test again. If they're still high, go to the health department's website where you'll find a list of state trained contractors.

"You're going to ask the contractor to explain what the work will involve," said Kerber. "Are you going to get a guarantee? You should get a guarantee on parts and labor as well as radon reduction."

He also says make sure the exhaust fan installed is located away from the living area, typically in the attic.

"The going rate is 1,200 to 1,500 bucks. If you get a bid that's much less than that or an internet sale price, it's often too good to be true," Kerber warned.

And he says don't pay for the entire bill until you get a post-mitigation test showing the numbers have dropped.

"You go buy a computer, you go buy a TV, why not buy something that will keep your family healthy," said Kelly Nitz.

She said there was no doubt they would make the fix after the levels came in so high. The Nitz's contractor, Ken Plzak, of Radon Mitigation LLC, is state certified and busier than ever before.

Although the EPA says you should act if the radon level in your home reaches four. The World Health Organization says you should do something at two-point-seven.

For information on how to obtain a radon kit to test your home, go to www.health.state.mn.us.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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