Profiles of Innovative State Programs: Minnesota - Gold Standard Radon Program

Minnesota Dept. of Health, Indoor Air Unit 

Gold Standard Radon Resistant Builder Program


The Minnesota Department of Health radon program provides education, outreach and research to reduce radon exposure in the state. In addition to promoting testing and mitigation of high radon levels in existing buildings, the Department created the Minnesota Gold Standard Radon Resistant Builder Program to encourage builders in Minnesota to incorporate active radon control systems in new home construction.

[NOTE: This program is no longer active.]

Why is this Project Important?

According to EPA and other federal agencies, indoor exposure to radon gas results in an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. every year, making radon the second leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause among non-smokers. The colorless, odorless gas is produced from the decay of radium released from uranium ore that is present in most rock and soils. When radon enters buildings through cracks or other openings in the foundation or slab, it becomes concentrated indoors. Inhaling radon over a period of years increases cancer risk; the higher the radon levels, the greater the risk. There is no "safe" level of exposure to radon. However, there are clearly established techniques for testing for and fixing elevated radon levels in existing homes, and also for controlling radon levels in new homes. Building radon resistant homes is a key preventive strategy for reducing radon risk.

In Minnesota, two in five homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk, and nearly 80% of the state's counties are rated as high radon potential zones. The state building code requires that new home construction include a "passive" radon control system. The passive system approach to radon reduction relies on the convective flow of air upward in a vent pipe to exhaust the radon gas. Most experts agree, however, that significantly greater radon reduction is achieved through use of an "active" system, which adds a fan to draw radon from the soil into the stack. The Minnesota Gold Standard Radon Resistant Builder Program works with builders to go beyond the requirements of the state building code and incorporate an active radon control system to maximize radon reduction in new homes.

What Materials and Resources Have Been Developed Under the Program?

The centerpiece of the program is the Minnesota Gold Standard for offering an active radon control system in new home construction. The program conducts outreach to encourage builders to participate and to educate the public about the standard. The program has developed a checklist of the elements of the standard, which is to be affixed to the radon vent pipe in a newly built home verifying that the components of the system were properly installed. The program website provides a listing of builders who have earned the Gold Standard designation by agreeing to offer the active system to their customers. The Department also asks that the builders report on a quarterly basis the homes that have been activated. Gold Standard builders are authorized to distribute to their customers a program brochure explaining the elements and benefits of the program. Builders also receive free fans for model homes and free yard signs. The Department conducts advertising in new home publications to drive demand towards Gold Standard builders. Nearly 100 builders are currently listed with the program.