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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: January 7, 2013


January is National Radon Action Month

A highlight of the National Radon Action Month in Delaware is the publication of the Delaware in-home radon testing data, by the Division of Public Health's (DPH) radon program. The publication identifies geographic areas where in-home radon is more likely to be elevated. The purpose of this publication is to alert all Delawareans, but particularly those in potentially elevated level areas, to test for radon. The data published are based on the review of recent and historic in-home radon testing data along with federal agency publication guidance.

According to information published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the two general areas in Delaware that exhibit the highest potential for elevated radon in homes are in New Castle County and appear to be associated with granitic rocks in northern New Castle County and certain unconsolidated sediments in southern New Castle County. These geologic formations can be sources for radon gas.

Radon test data from inside homes, specifically in basements, and to lesser extent first floors, have been collected nationally since 1985. The data are organized by ZIP code and include approximately 35,700 tests performed from 1993 through 2011, of which over 32,000 results came from tests conducted in New Castle County.

Using radon test data, DPH produced a map to aid in showing geographic areas of increased radon risk. The radon interpretative map is available

"DPH has always recommended all home owners test their residences for radon every few years," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "Radon can cause significant health problems, even fatal illness. Even homes located in areas of low radon potential do have measurable radon levels and can even be elevated."

The DPH radon program encourages Delawareans to test their homes for radon in the cooler months when houses tend to be closed up for warmth, making the test generally easier and more effective.

Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless and radioactive gas that occurs naturally in rocks and soils throughout the world. This gas may be found in homes and buildings; even new construction can contain radon. Since newer homes are often more airtight than older ones they can allow higher concentrations of radon to accumulate.

According to both the EPA and the American Lung Association, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the nation for non-smokers. Lung cancer in non-smokers is the sixth-leading cause of all cancer deaths combined, responsible for nearly 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year.

While all homes have radon, sometimes a sample may be below the laboratory's detection limit and is not quantifiable. Laboratory's detection limits are typically in the range of 0.3 to 1.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/l). In those cases, the result may be reported as non-detected or as a "less than" value.

The EPA indicates that homes at or above radon action level of 4 pCi/l are considered to be elevated and steps should be taken to reduce the concentration. By county, the ZIP code areas showing the greatest percentages of homes exceeding the EPA action level are: