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Radon Test Results In for MNKen's Certified Home Inspection now offers 48 hour Electronic Radon testing with same day printouts. Call 1-800-831-2175 for details and a price quotation.
It kills more people than drunk driving, fires and drownings combined.
Radon, the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas wasn't something most homeowners worried about until the I-TEAM's story last November.
Since then, nearly 20,000 people tested their homes for radon.
For years, hidden deep in Terry Kruegar's basement, sat a secret.
"I'm an ex-smoker. I've been almost 20 years without a cigarette and I thought 'I don't want to get lung cancer from something that can be prevented,'" Kruegar said.
Even after he quit smoking, Kruegar and his wife were still inhaling another dangerous and potentially deadly substance.
He didn't know radon was seeping into his home through the foundation.
"My family's been exposed to it for the last three-and-a-half years. We had no idea," Kruegar said.
Now, viewers are seeing their radon readings for the first time.
The Environmental Protection Agency said any reading greater than four is dangerous.
Kruegar's first reading was 5.4.
At the suggestion of his county's health department, he ran another test. It came back at 6.7.
Kruegar was not alone.
The I-TEAM tracked the results and found high levels of radon in every county where viewers tested.
Forty percent of homes tested revealed levels of radon high enough to be considered dangerous.
This is significant information because this is the first comprehensive data compiled in Minnesota since 1988.
"The potential for a problem is very strong in this state and everybody should be testing," said Bill Angell from the University of Minnesota Air Quality Project.
The results were no surprise to Angell, a nationwide expert on radon who's testified on the subject before Congress.
"Everybody is concerned about mold exposure, the health evidence for radon is maybe 1,000-10,000 times stronger than it is with mold," Angell said.
Breathing air from a home with one unit of radon is equal to smoking two cigarettes a day.
Kruegar's radon level was nearly seven times that. Even though he quit smoking, just living in his house was equivalent to smoking 14 cigarettes daily.
Elizabeth Hoffmann had never smoked. She had no history of lung cancer and should have had no reason why she should develop lung cancer.
She unexpectedly found out she had cancer at 37, when she visited her doctor for a cough.
Doctors blamed her home, where radon levels registered 8.6.
"I don't want people to be in the same situation that I am in, and that many others are in. I'm a voice of many," Hoffmann said.
In January, Hoffmann launched a radon cancer survivor support group.
A handful of survivors across the country are now sharing stories similar to Hoffmann's.
"The five-year survival rate for people with lung cancer is only 15 percent, so I joke that my goal is to have a 70th birthday, but statistically I have a 15 percent chance to have a 42nd birthday," Hoffmann said.
"Somebody needs to step up and do something about this," Kruegar said.
The state did, or at least tried.
After an overwhelming response to WCCO-TV's radon coverage, the Department of Health proposed a building code change that would allow counties to require all new homes be built radon-resistant.
But Wednesday, the building code committee rejected the idea. One member said more research needs to be done on new homes.
"I had a grandfather that died of lung cancer and I remember seeing him when I was little, walking two steps, having a hard time breathing," Kruegar said. "The first thing I thought was if it's preventable let's prevent it, you know."
For now, it's up to homeowners like Kruegar to decide to do something to protect themselves.
After two high radon readings, he decided to clear the air. He hired a company to install a system in his home to keep radon out.
"It was less than $1,000 to take care of it, so now we're radon-free," Kruegar said. "I can sleep at night."
The U.S. Surgeon General said radon-induced lung cancer kills 21,000 people every year. It kills 1,000 Minnesotans each year. (WCCO)
Call Ken at 1-800-831-2175 to discuss if you have possible high levels of radon.