Federal Radon Action Plan

A New Chapter in the Fight against Radon Exposure

By Janet McCabe

Nearly five years ago, we launched an ambitious and far-reaching radon action plan with eight other federal agencies to help save lives and create heathier indoor environments in government-influenced buildings like housing, schools, and childcare facilities. Why? Each year an estimated 21,000 Americans die from radon-induced lung cancer, which is unacceptable. Radon exposure is preventable.

So far our shared efforts have reached an estimated 1.6 million homes, schools and childcare facilities and led to testing for and mitigation of high radon when necessary in nearly 200,000 of those units. And we’ve nearly completed all of our Federal Radon Action Plan (FRAP) commitments like the General Services Administration’s goal to test its 103 childcare facilities for radon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s goal to establish radon testing and mitigation requirements for participants in its multifamily housing mortgage insurance programs. You can view the progress we made by visiting our FRAP Scorecard.

While we have made significant progress — in 2013 and 2014 we saw the highest rates of radon mitigation and radon resistant new construction ever recorded in the United States — there’s still more work to do. Elevated radon is still a serious challenge in an estimated 1 out of 15 homes across the United States. The good news is that we have help. Led by the American Lung Association, twelve organizations representing government, nonprofit and industry sectors have crafted and launched an expanded game plan known as the National Radon Action Plan (NRAP).

NRAP builds on, leverages, and accelerates the momentum we created at the federal level. The new and improved strategy aims to incorporate radon testing, radon mitigation and radon-resistant construction into the systems that govern the purchase, financing, and construction and renovation of homes and other buildings. It will have a huge impact on improving public health and in cutting health care costs. Our near-term goal is to reduce the radon risk in a total of five million homes and save 3,200 lives annually by 2020. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate avoidable radon-induced lung cancer in the United States.

As we close the chapter on the Federal Radon Action Plan, I’m excited to see what we will accomplish through our National Radon Action Plan.

I also encourage you to test your home for radon. Affordable do-it-yourself radon test kits are available online, at many home improvement and hardware stores, or you can hire a qualified radon professional. For more information on how to test your home, visit http://www.epa.gov/radon. Test. Fix. Save a Life.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Working Together to Reduce Radon Exposure

By Philip Jalbert

I am very excited and proud to be part of a small team of EPA employees that is taking on an issue that is important to me both professionally and personally. The project is unprecedented in that it addresses a serious health risk: radioactive radon gas. Radon causes lung cancer and kills more than 21,000 Americans every year. An aunt of mine died of lung cancer at 56 – neither she nor anyone in her family ever smoked.

Last summer, the Federal government announced a Federal Radon Action Plan for protecting families from this unseen hazard. It culminated six months of intense and collaborative effort among several major Departments and Agencies. We need more collaboration like this, something not seen often enough in the Federal government.

More than 20 years ago radon debuted as a public health issue when a nuclear power plant worker set off radiation alarms going to work – he had a very high radon level in his home! The plan is the first to take a coordinated long-term approach to reducing the health risk from radon across federal agencies. The plan will focus on the millions of homes and schools the Feds control or influence. We are hoping that our actions will motivate the private sector, state and local governments to take more action.

As a nation we’ve made progress, yet today eight million American households are exposed to more than 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air – EPA’s recommended action level. Last year about 124,000 Americans took action to reduce the radon level in their homes. America’s home builders included radon reducing features in nearly 17% of all new homes. r

We hope this unprecedented plan will make the radon risk more visible, spur action and help save lives; especially those of low-income Americans without the resources to reduce their risk. You can learn more about the plan on our Federal Radon Action Plan website.

I’ve been with EPA since 1983 and first encountered radon while serving the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine program four decades ago. My work on radon since 1989 has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. Test your home, the life you save may be your own.

About the author: Philip Jalbert presently works in EPA’s Indoor Environments Division in Washington, DC.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.