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Radon Mitigation and New HUD Regulations

When people think about lifestyle and environmental health hazards, smoking and secondary smoke are among the first to come to many people’s minds. It is not unusual to see non-smokers give a wide berth to people holding lit cigarettes in public places, and they do so for good reason. While smoking is inarguably the number-one cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States, most people do not realize that they are also at risk from exposure to other, less noticeable killers in their immediate environment. One of the most lethal of these killers is radon.

What is radon, and where does it come from?

Radon is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless gas. Naturally occurring radon gas is formed through the decay of radium, which is itself a product of the decay of the radioactive elements thorium and uranium. Because it is a relatively heavy gas, it is typically found in low areas of buildings, such as basements and crawl spaces, as well as in hot springs and other water bodies. Radon gas typically finds its way into buildings through tiny cracks around low-lying areas of buildings and may also enter the home through a contaminated well if this is the home’s principal water source.

Areas of the United States where the risk for radon exposure is high include the Northeast, the Appalachian Mountains and foothills and the Upper Midwest.

Health concerns related to radon exposure

While many homeowners and apartment dwellers with gas appliances are familiar with the dangers of carbon monoxide, radon receives considerably less attention. The fact that radon occurs naturally and is responsible for even more public exposure to ionizing radiation than nuclear reactors, it needs to be in the forefront of homeowners minds. In the areas where radon is prevalent, it is also a major indoor air quality issue due to the risk of death from lung cancer. According to the EPA, lung cancer deaths that can be traced to radon typically result from low- to medium-dose exposure, making it the most important cause of lung cancer deaths after smoking and the number-one cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers. With 21,000 deaths from radon-induced lung cancer occurring each year, radon is even more hazardous to your health than secondary smoke.

HUD requirements for radon mitigation

Although radon is known to be more prevalent in certain regions of the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon regardless of risk. Likewise, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Multifamily Housing issued a new policy in 2013 which is expected to significantly reduce the number of radon-induced lung cancer deaths in the United States. The new HUD policy requires that all renter-occupied multi-family homes, , as well as most FHA-insured construction, in medium- to high-risk areas be tested for radon and for radon mitigation and remediation as needed. The new HUD policy follows the EPA recommendation for radon mitigation in homes with radon concentrations at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air.

EPA and HUD also advise that the best way to perform radon mitigation is to prevent it from entering homes in the first place. Since prevention is not always possible, many existing dwellings covered by the new HUD policy will inevitably test positive for radon. Whether for preconstruction radon mitigation or for remediation work resulting from an elevated radon test, the new HUD policy requires that radon mitigation and remediation be performed under the supervision of a certified or licensed radon professional in existing homes as well as in new construction in medium- to high-risk areas.

Landlords, tenants, construction companies, and buyers of FHA-insured new construction homes are urged to seek out the services of an environmental contractor, such as SWAT Environmental, which specializes in radon mitigation and remediation. Unlike many general contractors which claim to have experience in radon mitigation and remediation, SWAT Environmental provides these services exclusively, so homeowners can rest assured that radon testing and radon mitigation and remediation will be completed by HUD-approved radon experts.

HUD has made healthy homes a top priority, and SWAT Environmental is ready to make your home a healthier and safer place to live. Contact a SWAT Environmental service center today to learn more about how radon affects your health and about the new HUD requirements for radon testing and mitigation.

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