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EPA Administration Encourages Testing Homes for Radon

Release Date: 01/14/2003
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CONTACT: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 /

(01/13/03) EPA Administrator Christie Whitman today urged Americans to heed January as National Radon Action Month by testing their homes for the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country, indoor radon gas. Approximately one home in 15 across the nation has unacceptably high radon levels; in some areas of the country, as many as one out of two homes has high levels.

“As many as 22,000 people die from lung cancer each year in the United States from exposure to indoor radon,” Whitman said. “Yet Americans could help prevent these deaths and protect their families by testing their homes for radon as soon as possible. Not only is radon testing a sound investment in the long-term health of your family,” Whitman added, “but it could also be a good investment in terms of the resale value of your home. In many areas, radon testing is a required part of real estate transactions.”

Since the passage of the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988, EPA has provided more than $10 million annually to states and other public health and consumer protection organizations to help promote public awareness about the importance of radon testing. About 20 million homes are estimated to have administered radon tests, about 700,000 homes with elevated radon levels have been fixed and about 1 million new homes have been built with radon-resistant features.

Among many activities, EPA partners with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and their extension services, the National Safety Council, state and local government agencies and other not-for-profit and commercial organizations to conduct an annual national poster contest to heighten awareness of radon. The national poster contest concludes with the winner and their parent(s) or guardian brought to EPA Headquarters for an award ceremony and a photo opportunity with the EPA Administrator and other top-level officials. This year's poster winner is a 6th grader from North Carolina who received a plaque and congratulations from Administrator Whitman, Dr. Colien Hefferan, Administrator of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service at USDA and representatives from partners in ongoing radon outreach efforts. The winning poster will be distributed across the country as part of radon public awareness efforts.

Since January is designated as National Radon Action Month, EPA and partner organizations are sponsoring activities around the country to increase awareness of the health risks of radon. Radon levels can soar during the colder months when residents keep windows and doors closed and spend more time indoors. Radon can also be a danger in summer when homes are closed tight for air conditioning purposes.

Radon, a radioactive product of the element radium, is invisible and odorless and occurs naturally in soil, rock, and water across the country. Although relatively harmless when diluted in the open air, radon can pose a serious health threat when concentrated indoors. When inhaled, radon releases small bursts of energy that can damage the DNA in lung tissue over time and lead to lung cancer.

Radon test kits, sold at home improvement and hardware stores, are easy to use and provide accurate readings of home radon levels. EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that homes with radon levels of 4 pCi/L (picoCurries per liter of air) or higher pose a danger and should be fixed by an experienced contractor. For help in finding a contractor near you, visit EPA's radon website below and click on “find a qualified radon service professional.”

Although some areas of the country have naturally higher radon levels than others, EPA recommends that everyone test their home because isolated radon "hot spots" can occur anywhere. EPA also recommends testing in schools, work places, community centers and other buildings where people spend long periods of time.

For more information about radon testing, call the radon hotline at 800-SOS-RADON or visit: .