General Radon Information

New York specific radon and radon level information can be found throughout this site. You will be able to find information about certified radon inspectors in New York, as well as detailed radon level information for every county in New York.

Are you aware that a killer may be hiding in your home? Radon is a harmful radioactive gas that you can't see, smell or taste. But, when you breathe air containing radon you increase your chances of getting cancer. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today, killing an estimated 14,000 people each year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths . If you smoke and your home has high radon levels , your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Although there is no safe level of radon, the USEPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). There will always be some risk from radon, but the risk can be reduced by lowering the level of radon in your home. A variety of methods are used to reduce radon levels. In some cases, sealing cracks in floors and walls may help. In other cases, simple systems using pipes and fans may be used to reduce radon. Such systems are called "sub-slab depressurization," and do not require major changes to your home. These systems remove radon gas from below the concrete slab before it can enter your home. Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces. Radon contractors may use other methods depending on the design of your home.

Certain geographical areas are known to have homes with much higher radon concentrations than the average value. The Marcellus shale area near Syracuse was selected as a potentially high risk area for indoor radon concentrations above average values, whereas the Pine Bush area near Albany was selected as a low risk area. The Marcellus shale is a middle Devonian marine shale, 15 to 60 feet thick with outcroppings located in a band across the state. The shale contains high concentrations of both organics and radionuclides. The Pine Bush area near Albany is a sandy glacial outwash deposit; similar deposits cover large areas of New York State.

Soils from the Marcellus shale area contain significantly greater concentrations of radium and soil-gas radon than do soils from the Pine Bush area. The Rn-222 concentrations in soils gas near the foundation of four homes were found to be less than those from locations greater than 15 feet from the foundation, perhaps due to migration of soil gas into or around the foundation; this suggests caution in soil gas measurements near homes.

Between November 1995 and January 1997, a radon awareness, testing, and remediation survey was conducted to measure general awareness and factual knowledge about radon and prevalence of radon testing and remediation among New York State residents. The survey found that 82% of 1,209 respondents had heard of radon, but only 21% were knowledgeably aware of radon. With regard to radon testing, only 15% of respondents who were aware of radon had their homes tested. The percentage of respondents who were aware or knowledgeably aware of radon increased with increasing education level. The findings from the study suggest that the New York State public awareness programs that targeted high radon areas did show some effect both by increasing public awareness and promoting residential testing. The relatively low percentage of respondents who were knowledgeably aware of radon and the low percentage who had tested their homes strongly suggest that renewed efforts by the public health community are needed to increase knowledge about radon and its health effects and to encourage radon testing and remediation.

During the two school years between 1991 and 1993, 60 schools were measured for indoor radon in New York State. Schools were solicited from areas considered to be at risk for above-average indoor radon based on residential indoor radon measurements and on the geology of the area. Eighteen of the sixty schools participating in the New York State study were selected for soil-radon potential characterization. Soils near the perimeter of the school, in the school yard, and in crawl spaces were measured for soil 226Ra concentration, soil-gas 222Rn concentration, and permeability for gas flow. In general, above-average indoor radon concentrations in the schools were found to correlate with highly permeable, gravelly soils. At 10 schools, the average soil permeability for gas flow was greater than 3s tested in these 10 schools had long-term indoor radon concentrations greater than 150 Bq/m3. The soils near the 10 schools were generally glacial outwash gravel deposits containing average concentrations of 226Ra and soil-gas 222Rn.

The following 37 New York counties have been designated as high radon risk areas by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New York State:

Albany

Allegany

Broome

Cattaraugus

Cayuga

Chautauqua

Chemung

Chenango

Columbia

Cortland

Delaware

Dutchess

Erie

Genesee

Greene

Herkimer

Lewis

Livingston

Madison

Oneida

Onondaga

Ontario

Orange

Otsego

Putnam

Rensselaer

Saratoga

Schoharie

Schuyler

Steuben

Tioga

Tompkins

Ulster

Washington

Wayne

Wyoming

Yates

For more information radon or radon testing, call the Department of Health at 1-800-458-1158 ext. 27556 or (518) 402-7556.

New York State Department of Health

Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection

547 River Street

Flanigan Square, Room 530

Troy, NY 12180-2216

radon@health.state.ny.us

If you would like to locate mitigation firms in your area, obtain information on radon resistant new construction, or have any other questions about radon, call the New York State Department of Health at 1-800-458-1158, or send email to radon@health.state.ny.us.