The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)
Radon licensure requirements for measurement started in 2019. Because this was the first year of a new regulation, MDH minimized enforcement actions and instead focused on compliance assistance. The MDH radon program has licensed approximately 400 individuals. The Minnesota Radon Licensing Act has helped improve the quality of testing in Minnesota, which provides residents reliable information to make decisions regarding their health, safety, and financial interests.
Unfortunately, incorrect information was recently distributed by an outside source, stating that some home inspectors have seen fines in excess of $25,000, despite their best efforts to comply with the new law. The truth is fines have only been issued for testing without a license and using unapproved test devices. They ranged from $500 – $1,500, and in all cases, the individuals came into compliance and the fines were waived.
MDH conducted educational and individual consultations to help professionals comply with licensure. Outreach was completed to approximately 200 unlicensed people that may be testing (such as home inspectors and previously certified individuals) to inform them about licensure.
MDH also provided a wide range of radon education to licensees, real estate professionals, schools, and the public. There were 21 unique hours of free CE offered to licensees throughout the state, in-person, and by webinar. These helped licensees meet their CE requirements while delivering valuable information on requirements and why proper testing is important.
MDH staff audited 312 licensees with a focus on compliance assistance. These were one-on-one education sessions to go through an individual’s processes, testing equipment, and compliance obligations. Since they were tailored education sessions, one hour of CE was granted for the audit, and a summary with instructions for corrective actions was provided. Enforcement action was only needed in two audits, when information revealed that unlicensed individuals in that company were conducting testing.
The most common violations were not giving proper notice before and during the test, not documenting test conditions and not providing required standard language in test reports, not following their QA Plan, and not performing QC measurements such as duplicates. A significant, but less common violation was testing with equipment that was past its calibration due date.
On average, we found ten unique violations at each audit, with up to 22 violations. Interestingly, more violations were observed for licensees who were privately certified within the last two years than for uncertified individuals. Our findings confirm that regulation of the radon measurement industry is warranted, and that voluntary certification alone does not ensure adequate compliance with standards and public health protection.
MDH staff investigated 30 complaints this year. While we used education and enforcement actions to help bring the individuals into compliance, penalties were waived after compliance was determined.
By investigating one complaint, MDH staff identified and helped individuals who were using unapproved testing devices. MDH staff worked with the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP), the device manufacturer, and the licensees to identify and quit using unapproved devices.
Another accomplishment that has led to more accurate testing is having licensees perform routine device QC checks that were not previously performed or not with the same frequency. As a result, some licensees found problems with their monitors and got them fixed and recalibrated. Some were even brand new or recently calibrated. Without QC checks, they could have been providing customers inaccurate data for making financial and health safety decisions.
MDH adopted the ANSI/AARST standards with only one modification–requiring tests of each unique foundation type. Anyone who is NRPP certified agrees to follow these same standards. Nearly 50% of the licensees audited are NRPP certified or certified within the last two years.
To make it easier for licensees to meet the standards, MDH has created templates for every single-family testing requirement, including the QA plan, test report, test notification forms, test placement and retrieval checklist, and a spreadsheet for tracking QC measurements. Numerous factsheets, handouts, and guides have also been created to assist in the licensing process.
One process professionals are adapting to is how results are reported to customers. Since radon levels in a building can fluctuate based on numerous factors, it is important to know some basic facts about the person performing the test, the device used, and the conditions present during the test. Since all these can directly influence the test results, the information is necessary to determine the accuracy of the test and if it truly reflects the radon risk.
Unfortunately, none of the current device manufacturers report templates contain the required information and instead rely on testing professionals to create reports that meet the standard. This has been a big change for licensees in Minnesota who are used to giving the minimal report from the test device. MDH has been working with manufacturers to make them aware of the deficiencies and either modify their reports to come into compliance or, make the reports modifiable so that end users can bring them into compliance. As an alternative option, MDH has created a fillable PDF report template that licensees can use.
Despite the learning curve, some companies have increased their business, as demonstrated by adding monitors or licensed individuals while complying with the licensing requirements.
MDH is committed to protecting the health of all Minnesotans. Our efforts in the radon licensing program have been aimed at preventing radon-induced lung cancer by allowing Minnesotans to make decisions based on accurate radon test results. Working together with our radon professionals in Minnesota, we recognize that we share a very important common goal, “saving lives by preventing lung cancer.”