What are the Standards and Regulations for Environmental Radon Levels?
CE Original Date: June 1, 2010
CE Renewal Date: June 1, 2012
CE Expiration Date: June 1, 2014
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Currently, no federal regulations govern acceptable radon levels for indoor residential and school environments. But guidelines are available. EPA based its guidelines not only on risk considerations, but also on technical feasibility.
Regulators periodically review radon standards and guidelines, and changes may occur over time. Consult EPA or state health departments for the most up-to-date standards.
Some estimates are that if homes with radon concentrations exceeding the EPA action level were to reduce concentrations below that level, approximately one-third of radon-induced lung cancer could be avoided. Eliminating all radon exposure is, however, not possible (ACS 2006).
EPA has set guidelines for maximum environmental radon levels based on limiting the risk of developing lung cancer from radon exposure. EPA has also developed methods for remediating sites to reduce radon levels effectively.
The EPA environmental radon level recommends remediation at a maximum of 4 picocuries/liter (pCi/L) of radon in air, with the caveat that radon concentrations below this level still carry a risk and in many cases are reducible (EPA 2009c).
For example, an area of a house has concentrations of radon between 2-4 pCi/L and this area is inhabited or heavily used—especially by children. To minimize potential health risks, consider remediating and lowering the environmental radon level.
In October 1988, Congress enacted the Indoor Radon Abatement Act (EPA 1988), which established a long-term goal of indoor air as radon-free as the ambient, outside air. The law authorized funding for radon-related activities at the state and federal levels to
- Establish state programs and providing technical assistance,
- Conduct radon surveys of schools and federal buildings,
- Establish training centers and a proficiency program for firms offering radon services,
- Develop a citizen’s guide to radon, and
- Develop model construction standards.
* NCRP = National Council for Radon Protection; EPA = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; NIOSH = National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration; MSHA = Mine Safety and Health Administration; USNRC = U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; WHO = World Health Organization
† EPA recommends action below 4 pCi/L in schools on a case-by-case basis
¶ WLM = working level month; a unit of measure commonly used in occupational environments (since WLM bears a complex relationship to pCi/L, physicians with responsibility for mine workers are urged to contact NIOSH or EPA for further information)
§ ALARA = As low as reasonably achievable
- Currently, no federal, enforceable regulations control indoor radon levels—only guidelines with recommendations and a national goal.
- EPA recommends abatement or remediation when indoor radon air concentrations equal or exceed 4 pCi/L.