Protect Your Family From Radon: A Guide for New York State Residents

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas found in soil and rock. It seeps into homes through cracks in the foundation, walls, and joints. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. It can get into any type of building--homes, offices, and schools--but you and your family are likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time.

Among nonsmokers, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, lung cancer due to radon exposure claims about 21,000 US lives annually. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented; this is especially true for radon-related lung cancer.

Radon May Be a Health Risk for You and Your Family

Radon Level
(picocuries per litre)
If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed
to this level over a lifetime…
If 1,000 people who never smoked were exposed
to this level over a lifetime…
20 pCi/L About 260 people could get lung cancer About 36 people could get lung cancer
4 pCi/L About 62 people could get lung cancer About 7 people could get lung cancer
0.4 pCi/L About 3 people could get lung cancer Less than 1 person could get lung cancer

Source: "A Citizen's Guide to Radon" US EPA, Jan 2009

Any Home Can Have High Radon Levels

Any home can have high radon levels, whether it is old or new, has a basement or is built on a slab. Radon can leak through cracks in your basement or slab, through the dirt floor of your crawl space, or through openings around your sump pump.

Major Radon Entry Routes

  • diagram of house and radon entry points

    1. A.  Cracks in concrete slab
    2. B.  Pores and cracks in concrete blocks
    3. C.  Slab-footing joints
    4. D.  Exposed soil, as in sump
    5. E.  Cracks between poured concrete (slab) and blocks
    6. F.  Loose fitting pipes
    7. G.  Water

New York State High Radon Area Counties

map of New York Counties with high radon levels
  • Albany
  • Allegany
  • Broome
  • Cattaraugus
  • Cayuga
  • Chautauqua
  • Chemung
  • Chenango
  • Columbia
  • Cortland
  • Delaware
  • Dutchess
  • Erie
  • Genesee
  • Greene
  • Herkimer
  • Lewis
  • Livingston
  • Madison
  • Montgomery
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga
  • Ontario
  • Orange
  • Otsego
  • Putnam
  • Rensselaer
  • Saratoga
  • Schenectady
  • Schoharie
  • Schuyler
  • Steuben
  • Sullivan
  • Tioga
  • Tompkins
  • Ulster
  • Washington
  • Wayne
  • Wyoming
  • Yates

You Should Test for Radon

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from exposure to radon. The New York State Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon. Testing is inexpensive and easy--it should only take a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon.

You may buy a test kit from the State Health Department, County Health Departments, hardware stores, or the hardware section of your local department store. In addition, be sure that the analysis of the radon test is performed by a company that is approved through the State's Environmental Laboratory Approval Program.

Order a Radon Test Kit

Fill out and return our Radon Detector Order Form or call our Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection at 518-402-7556.

You Can Fix a Radon Problem and Protect Your Family

If your home does have elevated levels of radon, you can install a radon reduction system. These systems should be installed by a certified radon mitigator. Radon reduction systems are low-cost solutions that work. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high radon levels can be reduced to acceptable levels with a properly installed radon reduction system. Reducing radon reduces health risks.

New Homes Can Be Built with Radon-Resistant Features

When installed properly and completely, simple and inexpensive features can help reduce indoor radon levels in homes. Installing a passive radon reduction system at the time of construction is easier and less expensive than installing a system after the house is completed. Every new home should be tested after occupancy, even if it was built radon-resistant. If radon levels are still at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air, the passive system should be activated by having a certified mitigator install a vent fan.

Learn More About Radon

For more information about radon, testing and fixing your home, or radon resistant new construction, visit us on the web, New York State Department of Health's Radon Program. Contact us by: