Investigate Radon Pollution in Your Homes and Schools

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking, and poses a serious public  health problem. The National Academy of Science estimated that radon causes about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. The report found that even very small exposures to radon can result in lung cancer, and concluded that no evidence exists that shows a threshold of exposure below which radon levels are harmless. The report also concludes that many smokers who  would otherwise not have developed lung cancer, will develop it if exposed to radon due to a synergistic relationship between radon and cigarette smoking.(1)

Most states have zip code-based maps showing the levels of radon in any particular area.   Simply enter “map zip code radon levels (State name)” , and click return.  Your map should appear.

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is undetectable to the eyes or the nose. It  can enter your home through your water supply, through cracks in your home’s foundation, and through doors and windows. It can also build up inside the spaces in your walls and then seep out into the main living area. The only way to know if you have radon in your house or apartment is through proper testing. There are a wide range of test kits available, costing from around $20.00 to almost $1000.00.  You can research the one you want by googling “Radon Detection tools”.  Be aware that the lower cost tools often have a second fee for processing the sample, and/or postage.  If you are going to investigate more than half a dozen homes or schools, you may be better off buying the units starting around $175.00.

You can also reach out to us via the “contact us” tab, and we may be able to help you get a piece of equipment on loan.

You can check out your neighborhood’s radon levels by using the zip code driven map here.   Click on your state, and a new map will appear that allows you to narrow your search by zip code or county.  The image below is not interactive, but will introduce you to the concept.

In March of 2012, USA Today published a great piece of investigative journalism on the subject of radon In Schools.  The author, Mr. Jeff Rossen, found some astonishing facts:

  • “Most schools in the U.S. don’t test for radon. With more than 70,000 classrooms at risk across the country, just five states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia, Florida and Colorado — require radon testing.”

  • NBC News reached out to 40 different school districts across the country to offer free radon testing; all 40 either declined or didn’t respond. Rossen says that one Indianapolis district said, “This can only make us look bad. If the levels are high, parents will get upset and want every school tested.”

  •  Radioactive radon gas — which is invisible, odorless and tasteless — exists in classrooms across the country at levels nearly twice the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable limit.

  • “If a student’s exposed, even at the EPA’s action level of 4 picocuries per liter, that’s equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day,” radon expert Bill Field told Rossen. (Note: a picocurie is a trillionth of a curie, which is a unit of radioactivity.)

Any concerned citizen can become a Pollution Detective.

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(1) “EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes PDF”
(PDF, 99 pp, 1.3MB,About PDF) [EPA 402-R-03-003], June 2003