By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health is urging homeowners to test for radon as part of Radon Action Month.

It released a map that shows the average annual testing rate per 10,000 housing units. The darker the area, the more residents that tested for radon. The paler areas mean less homes were tested.

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Dan Tranter is an indoor air unit supervisor. He says the map reveals that overall radon testing is still low in Minnesota.

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“We wanted them to see the differences in testing rates,” Tranter said. “We found about 1 percent of properties have tested for radon every year in recent years and it should be closer to 20 percent.”

Matt Flory is the state health systems manager with the American Cancer Society. He says exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

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(credit: CBS)

“Two out of five houses have unsafe levels of radon,” Flory said. “Radon causes cancer over a long period of time, so it’s not necessarily an immediate problem but one that can be easily mitigated pretty effectively if you do have unsafe levels.”

Radon testing rates tend to be lower in Minnesota areas with more poverty. In the metro, urban core areas like Minneapolis and St Paul performed worse compared to testing rates in the west suburbs. Rural southern Minnesota outperformed rural northern Minnesota.

“It can happen anywhere, and it’s important to know what your number is,” Flory said.

It’s recommended that homes be tested for radon at least every five years. The winter is particularly a good time to test as summers with open windows could cause less accurate results.

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You can pick up a radon test kit at stores like Home Depot, Menards, or on Amazon for less than $15. Anything above a level 4 reading is considered unsafe.

Kate Raddatz