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Posted on Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Washtenaw County Public Health encourages radon testing in homes

By Julie Baker

Winter is the perfect time to test for radon, and Washtenaw County Public Health is encouraging the public to take advantage of its half-price test kit sale this month to do so.


Courtesy of Washtenaw County Public Health

The Environmental Health Division is observing January as National Radon Action Month with $5 radon test kits through the end of the month.

Public Health estimates that as many as 40 percent to 45 percent of homes in Washtenaw County have elevated levels of radon, a tasteless, colorless and odorless radioactive gas. Radon is found in nearly all types of soil and rock and can enter homes through cracks in the foundation, dirt floors, hollow-block walls, and openings around floor drains and sump pumps.

"Radon has been increasing in awareness for the past decade or so," said Angela Parsons, an environmental educator for Public Health. "Many people don't have any idea about it. It's not like carbon monoxide where you go to sleep and don't wake up. The effects are more long term."

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers in the United States, according to Public Health information. Research shows that radon is associated with 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in this country.

Parsons said that winter is an ideal time to test for radon in homes because they are typically closed up tight during the winter. "It gives us a worst-case scenario reading," she said. Radon levels vary throughout the year, depending on how the home is open and ventilated. It may take up to two to three weeks to see results from kit tests. Public Health sells an average of 1,000 kits a year.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking action when radon levels are above 4.0 pCi/L inside a home. For comparison, the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L, and the average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L in the U.S.

If a home is found to have elevated levels of radon, the levels can be reduced by installing a mitigation system. Depending on the home and contractor, a typical radon mitigation system costs $800 to $1,000 in Washtenaw County. Parsons recommended finding a contractor that is nationally certified in radon mitigation.

Radon home test kits can be purchased for $5 at the Western County Service Center between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Service Center is located at 705 N. Zeeb Road in Scio Township. To purchase a test kit by mail for an additional $2, email or call (734) 222-3869.

The radon test kits will remain available for purchase at the Western County Service Center after Jan. 31 at the regular price of $10. For more information, contact the Washtenaw County Environmental Health Division at (734) 222-3869 or visit


David Sponseller

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

from Ironman: Because i was worried that the intrusion of a sump system into my Ann Arbor basement might compromise the integrity of the basement floor as a barrier against radon gas, I purchased one of the expensive electronic meters to measure the average radon level. In most of the areas of the house the readings were close to the safe limit of 4 units. But when I put the meter right on the sump lid a got average readings as high as 625 units, which is about 150 times the safe limit. I'm sure the fact that my sump is located in an enclosed closet under the stairway to the basement caused the reading to build up quite a bit. (Just outside the closet the reading was about 4 units.) But still the very high readings on the sump lid suggest that many residents might face health risks from the unwise and costly ($100 million-plus) Ann Arbor program to disconnect footing drains from the sanitary sewer, instead of just condemning those few homes that have sewer backups during 100-year rainstorms. Will the city some day face costly law suits for cancer deaths of non-smokers? Anyone with small children or pets playing in the basement would be well-advised to check radon levels at the city-mandated sumps.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

Here we have another fine example of Ann being right on top of things. Why are we just now finding out about something that lasts through the month on the 23rd of said month? Oh well, at least they didn't wait til February to tell us.

average joe

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

The posts from 1block & Janet begs the question- Is there any local government oversight (inspectors) to these "mitigating contractors"? Here are two cases that point out that re-testing should be required after installation by the contractor.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

It IS required to test after remediation

Janet Bigalke

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

I had a mitigation system installed and decided to retest the radon levels, just in case...they were still too high. I had to have more work done to get the radon levels down. Very important to retest AFTER the mitigation system is installed.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

There should be a hole through the floor so the plastic pipe sucks air from under the floor and gets exhausted outside.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Now the pipe actually goes BELOW the floor and into a trench of pea stone, but that's only because I put in an interior french drain system for water and noticed it was going into solid concrete (WEIRD). It's at least KIND OF working to pull air now, however the system was put in by a professional company so why in the hell would they put the PVC into a solid block of concrete. Pretty weird to say the least...

Ron Granger

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

It is a carcinogen. Lung cancer is no laughing matter. Ann Arbor should require landlords to test their properties and mitigate if it is present.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

I have a radon mitigation professional system installed in my basement. Recently I tore up some of the concrete (I put in an interior french drain) only to find out the PVC pipe was going into SOLID concrete. I just tried googling how a professional radon system works since I really don't know, but I find it VERY weird that it would just be a PVC pipe going into a solid block of concrete (the foundation). Does anyone know the specifics ? I think I'm going to buy the radon kit and if I have a problem I'll call the company that installed the damn thing. It's always kind of bothered me, but this article is enough to make me stop procrastinating.

Jim Nazium

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Thanks jcj, but I believe These links are More Accurate. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

David Cahill

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Hmm. Based on the links jcj posted, radon testing is a solution in search of a problem.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

Take a look at some other information on Radon. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>