About Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, colorless and odorless radioactive gas that forms from the decay of radium and uranium in the soil. It is present in rocks, soil and water in the environment and can seep indoors through cracks in a buildings foundation, walls, joints as well as through the water supply. Radon can accumulate over time in poorly ventilated spaces and pose a serious health hazard.

The New York State Environmental Public Health Tracker uses radon test data collected by the New York State Department of Health Radon program at the Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection.

Radon and health

Radon has been identified by the US EPA as the second leading cause of lung cancer estimating 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are due to radon. Long term and high levels of exposure as well as smoking can further heighten this risk. Inhaled radon and radon decay products that get deposited in the lung can emit radioactive particles. These particles cause damage to lung tissue leading to an increase in the risk of cancer.

Radon Testing

Radon can only be detected by testing. The New York State Department of Health recommends testing for radon during the buying/selling of a home, after doing major renovations, and every two to five years depending on previous radon level readings. Radon testing could be short-term (2-7 days) and long-term measurements (3-12 months). Charcoal canisters are the most commonly used device for short term measurements while Alpha Track detector (AT) are commonly used for long term detectors. The New York State Department of Health uses a reading of 4 picocuries per Liter (pCi/L) as a recommended action level.

Radon test kits and free post-mitigation test kits can be ordered from the New York State Department of Health.

Radon Mitigation

Reducing radon levels in a house can be done by several methods. Decisions about which radon reduction system to use is determined by the type of foundation of the home. Mitigation techniques include soil and submembrane suction, sealing cracks and openings, room pressurization, heat recovery ventilation and natural ventilation. More details can be found in EPA's Consumer Guide to Radon Reduction. Preventive measures can be taken during construction to build Radon Resistant homes. More information can be found in EPA's guide "Building Radon Out".

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