General Radon Information

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

Radon is a radioactive gas found in nature. It has no color, odor or taste and is chemically inert. Its source is natural uranium in the earth. As the uranium molecule slowly decays, it forms lead and radon gas as by-products. Being a gas, radon moves upward out of the soil and into the atmosphere. Uranium is found in most soils and in granite. Radon is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but when trapped in buildings, radon can be harmful at elevated levels.

Any home may have a radon problem from such sources as:

1. Cracks in solid floors

2. Construction joints

3. Cracks in walls

4. Gaps in suspended floors

5. Gaps around service pipes

6. Spaces inside walls

7. The water supply

The science on radon shows that exposure to elevated levels of radon causes lung cancer in humans.

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. On January 13, 2005, Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General, issued a national health advisory on radon. Visit www.cheec.uiowa.edu/misc/radon.html for more on a study by Dr. William Field on radon-related lung cancer in women.

The RI Radon Control Program is located in the Department of Health's Office of Occupational Health, Indoor Air Quality Program.

The primary mission of the Radon Control Program is to protect the health of the Rhode Island public by preventing exposure to elevated concentrations of radon gas. The Rhode Island Radon Act (Title 23-61) is designed to reduce the incidence of lung cancer due to radon/radon progeny exposure in Rhode Island to the greatest extent possible. To achieve this goal, the Act established a comprehensive Radon program in the Department of Health. Dr. Patricia Nolan, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health says "Because you can't see or smell radon, people minimize its health effects, and there's a tendency to ignore the possibility that elevated radon levels might exist in their homes."

Testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Two standard methods exist for testing a home for the presence of radon gas. Short-term testing methods are designed to provide a quick radon value. Short-term tests can be as short as 48 hours and as long as 90 days. Long-term testing methods are designed to provide an annual average of radon gas. Long-term tests run for a minimum of 90 days, and usually for 6 to 12 months. The EPA recommends performing a short-term test for radon. If that test comes back below the EPA Action Level ( 4.0 pCi/L), then no further immediate action is warranted. However, the home should be tested again after any air sealing work, heating/air conditioning system changes or foundation modifications. If the short-term test returns with a radon value of 4.0-10.0 pCi/L, the EPA recommends performing a long-term test to gauge the home's annual radon concentration. The results of the long-term test should be used to determine the necessity of radon mitigation (reduction). Another option is to conduct a second short term test if quicker results are desired. If the first short-term test returns above 10.0 pCi/L, then the EPA recommends performing a second short-term test to verify the results and using the average of the two short-term tests to determine the necessity of radon mitigation. Radon test kits that meet EPA guidelines are available at some retail outlets, and laboratories, or through a certified radon measurement consultant. Information on how to purchase a radon detector or locate a measurement consultant is available from the state radon office at (401)-222-2438.

If radon problems are discovered, they can be fixed. A qualified licensed contractor can fix radon problems for a cost similar to that for many common home repairs such as painting or having a new water heater installed (from $500 to about $2,500).

Faculty and students from the Department of Geology, University of Rhode Island (URI) and the State geologist of Rhode Island are working cooperatively with the USGS to develop a geographic information system (GIS) analysis of surface radioactivity, geology, and the occurrence of indoor radon. This cooperative project is part of a larger effort involving the USGS, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a method to determine the location of areas where homes have radon concentrations that exceed the occupational radiation limit, which is equivalent to 20 picocuries per liter of radon. Measurements of soil/gas radon and gamma-ray activity were made, and samples of soil and rock were collected. The data have been entered into the GIS along with surficial geology information and data from a new bedrock geology map of Rhode Island. A soil/gas radon monitoring station has been installed on the URI campus.