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Sister takes up victim’s radon fight as bill hits the Capitol

ST. PAUL — Janet Thompson was being treated for terminal lung cancer, but her thoughts were about others.

She lobbied people she saw to check their homes for radon, a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.

Now, her sister has taken up the cause. Lori Thompson-Garry told a House committee Wednesday that she backs a bill that would require a radon test when a house goes on the market.

“Lung cancer is very silent,” said Thompson-Garry of Eagan. “She had no symptoms.”

Thompson, who had lived in Glenwood, died in September at age 49, two years after being diagnosed. In those two years, Thompson-Garry said her sister told those giving her medical tests — and anyone else she could — that radon tests are important.

Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said he wants to raise awareness of radon risks. He said he does not expect the bill to pass this year, but eventually it will be state law.

Anderson’s bill received no vote, but will be considered as part of a larger bill.

Paul Eger of the Minnesota Association of Realtors told the House housing committee that his members agree that radon needs more attention, but said several details of the Anderson bill need to be worked out.

While Anderson’s bill would require a radon test, another proposal would require home sellers to disclose to buyers the presence of radon. It is part of a larger health bill.

Dan Steck, a nuclear physicist who has studied radon across the state, said about 700 Minnesotans will die of lung cancer tied to radon this year. Radon exposure follows smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer.

“The typical Minnesota home has about three times the radon as in other states,” he said.

The state Health Department reports that homes in the southern and western parts of the state show a greater chance of having radon, but any home in any area can be affected.

Radon easily can be vented out of most homes, Steck said, which “would save many lives.”

Homeowners may buy test kits for less than $20, while a certified tester can be hired for $150, Anderson said.

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