Kalamaoo County

Environmental Health


Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA's 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

The Michigan Indoor Radon Program is a non-regulatory program that promotes awareness of the health risk associated with exposure to elevated indoor radon levels, encourages testing for radon, and also encourages citizens to take action to reduce their exposure once elevated radon levels are found.

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in Kalamazoo County. While radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home may have a problem. The only way to know about your home is to test. Radon can also be a problem in schools and workplaces.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Where does radon come from?

    Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock. It forms from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon issues. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water (see "Radon in Water"). In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.

  • How does radon get in my home?

    Radon moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. It enters buildings through openings in the foundation floor or walls (sump openings; crawlspaces; floor/wall joints; cracks; space around plumbing, wiring, or ductwork; etc.). It does not matter if you have a basement, crawl space or cement slab foundation.

  • My home is new, should I still test?

    Kalamazoo County is considered to be a "Zone 1" county, and as of July 2001, it is a requirement of the Michigan Residential Code to have a passive radon control system installed in all new home construction. It is an inexpensive addition to the total cost of the new house and is an easy way to help reduce the risk of a radon problem. The only way to know if the passive system is working is to do a radon test!
    If an elevated radon level is found after the home is completed, the problem can be fixed. The passive radon control system can be "activated" to provide further radon reduction by adding an in-line fan to the existing system. This simple upgrade will almost always achieve results that are well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guideline of 4 pCi/l (4 picocuries per liter).

  • Are there any warning symptoms of radon?

    Radon has no warning symptoms; it does not cause headaches, nausea, or fatigue. The only known health effect is an increased risk of lung cancer.

  • How do I test for radon?

    Short-term radon testing kits can be purchased at Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department located at 311 East Alcott St., Kalamazoo, MI 49001 for $10.00. Long-term radon kits can be purchased for $20.00. Both kits can also be ordered on-line: Radon Kits.

  • Should I do a "short" or "long" term radon test?

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, follow these steps:
    1. Take a short-term test. If your result is 4 pCi/L or higher take a follow-up test (see Step 2).
    2. Follow up with either a long-term test (provides a better understanding of year-round average radon levels) or a second short-term test (if you need results quickly, take a second short-term test.)

      Note: The higher the initial short-term test result, the more certain you can be that you should take a short-term rather than a long-term follow up test. If your first short-term test result is more than twice EPA's 4 pCi/L action level, you should take a second short-term test immediately.

    3. If you followed up with a long-term test, fix your home if your test result is 4 pCi/L or more. If you followed up with a second short-term test, the higher your short-term results, the more certain you can be that you should fix your home. Consider fixing your home if the average of the first and second test is 4 pCi/L or higher.

  • What does Kalamazoo County Environmental Health do about radon?

    There are no laws that regulate indoor radon, however, Environmental Health staff will assist with interpretation of test results and can provide information on how to correct radon problems. Staff is also available to make community presentations involving awareness, prevention and control of radon hazards.

    Have more questions? Contact us!

    Helpful Links:

    Michigan Radon Information Page
    Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Indoor Radon Program
    Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - Real Estate Transactions
    US Environmental Protection Agency - A Citizens Guide to Radon
    US Environmental Protection Agency - Selling a House
    World Health Organization Fact Sheet

  • The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department programs are open to all without regard to race, sex, color, national origin, religion, height, weight, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

    Links to external sites do not constitute endorsements by Kalamazoo County.