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Indoor Air Quality In The Mid Atlantic Region

January is National Radon Action Month

Radon Audio Podcast

Radon

Background

Radon is a colorless, radioactive, inert gas formed from the disintegration of radium that sometimes enters homes and buildings.  Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium and radium that is found in nearly all soils.  It moves through the ground into the air around and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.  It may be found in rock formations beneath buildings or in certain building materials themselves.  Any home may have high radon levels which means new and old homes, well sealed and drafty homes and homes with and without basements.  It is estimated that the average indoor radon level in the U.S. is 1.3 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), while the average indoor (ambient) radon level is .4pCi/L, one tenth of the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L.

In Region 3 elevated radon levels have been found in all of the Mid-Atlantic States and the only way to know for sure if you home has radon is to test for it.  Once a radon problem is found, there are simple ways to fix the home and lower the risk from radon. These techniques are commonly called radon mitigation.

For more information visit: EPA HQ's Radon website

Health Effects

Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This energy can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.

The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who never smoked. The only way to know if a home has high radon levels is to test.

For more information: EPA Radon Health Effects

Testing and Mitigation

EPA recommends that all homes should be tested and that any home with a measured radon level of 4 pCi/L or more be mitigated to reduce radon levels.  EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

Testing is simple and there are many kinds of low-cost “do it yourself” radon test kits you can get though the mail and in some hardware stores/retail outlets.  If you prefer or if you are buying/selling a home, you can hire a qualified tester to do the testing for you.  You should first contact your State’s Radon Program for a list of radon professionals.  If you state does not have a radon program you can contact one or both of the two privately-run national radon programs, listed on the HQ site who are offering proficiency/accreditation/certification in radon testing. 

For more information: EPA Radon Testing and Mitigation

Radon mitigation methods can be applied to any existing home. Radon mitigation can also be applied to new homes during the construction phase, sometimes referred to as EPA Radon Resistant New Construction.

Mitigation techniques are usually cost effective and can greatly reduce or even eliminate the radon gas and the associated health risks.  When selecting a radon reduction method for your home, you and your contractor should consider several things, including:  how high your initial radon level is, the costs of installation and system operation, your house size and your foundation type.  The cost of the radon system can vary depending on the information listed above but generally ranges from $800-$2500.

For more information on radon testing, mitigation and certified contractors visit: EPA Testing and National Certification

State Radon Programs

EPA provides State Indoor Radon Grants (SIRG) to states and tribes to help finance their radon risk reduction programs. Recipients must provide a minimum of 40% in matching funds. Currently in Region 3, Delaware, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have state radon programs. Click on your state to find out more information on your state's radon program.

For states, such as Virginia and Maryland (excluding Montgomery County, MD), who do not have State Radon Programs, contact the U.S. EPA's Philadelphia Region Office.

If you are a Montgomery County, Maryland resident and have questions please contact Montgomery County, Maryland.

For more information on SIRG visit: EPA State Indoor Radon Grants (SIRG)

Region 3 Contact information

Mid-Atlantic Federal and State Radon Contact Information

If have an interest, concerns or questions on Radon please call or contact the Region 3 coordinators:

U.S. EPA Region 3
Air Protection Division
Office of Voluntary Programs
Mail Code (3AP50)
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029
Fax (215) 814-2101
Toll Free 1-800-438-2474
In-state (215) 814-5000

Coordinator:

Michelle Moyer
215-814-2098
Email: moyer.michelle@epa.gov

Mid-Atlantic Radon Maps

Radon Zones Map

The purpose of the Radon Zone maps are to assist National, State, and local organizations to target their resources (outreach and education) and to implement radon-resistant building codes. These maps are not intended to determine if a home in a given zone should be tested for radon; all homes should be tested regardless of geographic location or radon zone. Homes with elevated levels of radon have been found in all three zones.

For more information on Regional Radon Zone Maps, National Radon Zone Map or to view your state's radon maps visit: EPA Map of Radon Zones

Mid-Atlantic Radon Measurements Map

Region 3 compiled available radon data from state radon programs to create this Mid-Atlantic Radon Measurements Map. The data represents the average of the test results grouped by zip code. Using both the Radon Zone Map and Mid-Atlantic Radon Measurements Map you can determine the radon potential in your area. However, you should use these maps for informational purposes only; all homes should be tested regardless of geographic location, radon zone or local test data.

Additional Radon Links:

  • Radon Publications
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  • Radon FAQs
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  • National Radon Action Month
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  • Radon Leaders Saving LivesExit EPA Click for disclaimer
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  • American Association of Radon Scientists and TechnologistsExit EPA Click for disclaimer
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  • Pennsylvania Radon Test Results DataExit EPA Click for disclaimer
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  • West Virginia Map of Potential Radon Test ResultsExit EPA Click for disclaimer(PDF, 1 pp., 65k, About PDF)
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  • USGS Radon InfoExit EPA Click for disclaimer
  • Tools for Schools (TfS) Program

    Background

    IAQ Tools for Schools is our largest program with the purpose of improving air quality in all school buildings in Region 3.  IAQ TfS program promotes and encourages schools and districts to proactively improve their indoor environment.  The TfS kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan to improve their indoor environment for little or no cost.  The kit is available for free and includes easy steps that schools can take to adopt a proactive approach to addressing any indoor air environmental concerns. 

    EPA staff can provide training, outreach/education and assistance to schools that are interested in developing their own site specific indoor air quality management plan.  EPA may also assist your district in assessing your current indoor environment.

    To date Region 3 has worked with approximately 600 schools to improve air quality in their schools.

    For more information visit our HQ's website at EPA Tools for Schools Program.

    Region 3 Contact information

    If you are interested in implementing an IAQ management program or taking a proactive approach to addressing indoor environmental concerns in your school, contact the Region 3 coordinators:

    U.S. EPA Region 3
    Air Protection Division
    Office of Voluntary Programs
    Mail Code (3AP50)
    1650 Arch Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029
    Fax (215) 814-2101
    Toll Free 1-800-438-2474
    In-state (215) 814-5000

    Coordinator:

    Cristina Schulingkamp
    215-814-2086
    Email: schulingkamp.cristina@epa.gov

    Tools for Schools Symposium

    At the IAQ TfS National Symposium you will learn strategies and tactics that can help in your efforts to reduce absenteeism, increase student and staff performance, enhance community relations, and improve student and staff health.

    For more information visit: TfS Symposium

    Additional Tools for Schools Links

  • EPA TfS FAQs
  • EPA TfS Publications
  • EPA Resources for Schools
  • TfS award winners
  • Press Release

    EPA Recognizes Maryland School Districts with Indoor Air Quality Excellence Awards (PDF, 1 pp., 23.7 KB, About PDF)

    Mold Indoors

    Background

    The problems of moisture and mold in building structures have increased for many of the same reasons that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a more significant problem. Molds can trigger asthma episodes in individuals with asthma and can also trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

    Mold is part of the natural environment. Outdoors, it plays a part in nature by breaking down dead organic material such as fallen leaves and dead trees. But indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. Without food and water the mold will not grow. Floods, broken pipes, roofs or other leakage problems can now result in higher moisture levels and more mold inside buildings. Since all molds require water or moisture, the key to preventing or controlling mold growth is to remove the source of water or moisture.

    Health Effects

    When moisture occur and mold growth results, individuals may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems. These include:

  • Headaches,
  • breathing difficulties
  • skin irritation,
  • allergic reactions,
  • aggravation of asthma symptoms.
  • If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should consult your family physician and try to determine the underlying cause of the allergic reactions. All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual's exposure, the ages of the individuals, and their existing sensitivities or allergies.

    For more information on health effects visit: EPA Mold Health Effects or EPA Mold Resources

    Mold Clean-up

    If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.

    If you have a mold problem and would like more information, EPA has an excellent guide on its Mold Resources web page or visit our HQ's website: EPA Mold and Moisture

    Region 3 Contact information

    If have an interest, concerns or questions on IAQ please call or contact the Region 3 coordinators:

    U.S. EPA Region 3
    Air Protection Division
    Office of Voluntary Programs
    Mail Code (3AP50)
    1650 Arch Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029
    Fax (215) 814-2101
    Toll Free 1-800-438-2474
    In-state (215) 814-5000

    Coordinator:

    Cristina Schulingkamp
    215-814-2086
    Email: schulingkamp.cristina@epa.gov

    Additional Mold Links

  • Region 3 FAQs
  • EPA Mold FAQs
  • EPA Mold Publications
  • EPA Flood Cleanup
  • Index of Air Topics || Directions & Accommodations || State & Local Agencies


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