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Radon mitigation programs

Health Factors: Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Local Government State Government Healthcare Professionals & Advocates Public Health Professionals & Advocates
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 100% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to increase disparities

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Description

Radon mitigation programs support systems and technologies designed to prevent radon from entering occupied buildings and lowering existing indoor air radon levels. Radon mitigation systems can include subslab depressurization (SSD), which depressurizes soil using a vent pipe system and a fan; sealing cracks and openings in building foundations; home or room pressurization; heat recovery ventilation; or natural ventilation (US EPA-Radon). Radon is a radioactive, odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas which occurs naturally in the environment. When radon escapes from soil and rocks, it creates compounds that are hazardous to health, particularly for smokers; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (Kim 2016a).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced radon exposure
Improved health outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that radon mitigation programs reduce exposure to radon (Brossard 2015, Boardman 2015, Lutes 2015, Lantz 2013, Sethi 2012, Sandel 2010, NCHH-Jacobs 2009, Steck 2012) and reduce the likelihood of developing lung cancer (Lantz 2013, Sethi 2012, Sandel 2010, NCHH-Jacobs 2009, Steck 2012). Evidence is strongest for active soil depressurization systems, also called subslab depressurization (SSD) (Brossard 2015, Lutes 2015, Boardman 2015, Sandel 2010, NCHH-Jacobs 2009, Steck 2012, Sethi 2012). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of interventions such as passive air, room pressurization, and heat recovery ventilation (NCHH-Jacobs 2009, US EPA-Radon). 

Radon mitigation programs can have the greatest health benefits and be most cost effective when targeted at smokers or other high-risk populations (Lantz 2013). The effectiveness of each measure varies based on individual building characteristics (Sethi 2012). A Canada-based study suggests that above ground level discharge (AGL), a form of soil depressurization, is more cost effective and better suited for cold climates when fans are placed in basements than in attics (Brossard 2015).

Mitigation is often undertaken by individual property owners or tenants. The cost of mitigation and a lack of concern over elevated radon levels are often reasons individuals decide against mitigation. Concern over real estate values, living in a home less than 10 years old, and possession of a college education are associated with the choice to mitigate (Riesenfeld 2007).

Researchers suggest that partnerships between health care providers, public health agencies, and environmental organizations may help increase awareness of the existence and dangers of radon, encourage testing of homes for radon, and support mitigation efforts (Larsson 2014, Bain 2016, Levy 2015a).

Implementation

United States

Most states’ Departments of Health have a radon protection program. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides information on state and local radon programs and contacts, along with a map of radon zones (US EPA-Radon contacts). 

As of December 2016, 18 states have radon mitigation laws in place (LawAtlas-Radon).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Radon Mitigation Program collects data on all radon tests in the state and operates 17 radon information centers. The program provides information on how to upgrade homes to reduce radon leakage, offers training in radon measurement and mitigation, and includes a list of certified contractors to assist in radon mitigation (WI DHS-Radon). 

Implementation Resources

PHLR-Radon - Center for Public Health Law Research (PHLR). Video: Mandatory testing of radon levels in for-sale homes. Critical Opportunities Initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2012. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Radon mitigation-KS - Kansas State University. National Radon Program Services: Radon mitigation. In collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Accessed on August 30, 2017
US EPA-Radon federal action plan - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), US Department of Health & Human Services (US DHHS), US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Federal radon action plan. Accessed on August 30, 2017
US EPA-Radon reduction 2016 - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Consumer’s guide to radon reduction: How to fix your home. 2016. Accessed on August 31, 2017

Citations - Description

Kim 2016a - Kim SH, Hwang WJ, Cho JS, Kang DR. Attributable risk of lung cancer deaths due to indoor radon exposure. Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2016;28(1):8. Accessed on August 31, 2017
US EPA-Radon - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Radon (Rn). Accessed on August 30, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Bain 2016 - Bain AA, Abbott AL, Miller LL. Successes and challenges in implementation of radon control activities in Iowa, 2010–2015. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2016;13:150596. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Boardman 2015* - Boardman CR, Glass S V. Basement radon entry and stack driven moisture infiltration reduced by active soil depressurization. Building and Environment. 2015;85:220-232. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Brossard 2015* - Brossard M, Ottawa CB, Falcomer R, Whyte J. Radon mitigation in cold climates at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg. Health Physics. 2015;108(Suppl 1):S13-S18. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Lantz 2013* - Lantz PM, Mendez D, Philbert MA. Radon, smoking, and lung cancer: The need to refocus radon control policy. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(3):443–7. Accessed on August 30, 2017
Larsson 2014 - Larsson LS. Risk-reduction strategies to expand radon care planning with vulnerable groups. Public Health Nursing. 2014;31(6):526-536. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Levy 2015a - Levy BT, Wolff CK, Niles P, et al. Radon testing: Community engagement by a rural family medicine office. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2015;28(5):617-623. Accessed on August 31, 2017
Lutes 2015 - Lutes CC, Truesdale RS, Cosky BW, Zimmerman JH, Schumacher BA. Comparing vapor intrusion mitigation system performance for VOCs and radon. Remediation Journal. 2015;25(4):7-26. Accessed on August 31, 2017
NCHH-Jacobs 2009 - Jacobs DE, Baeder A. Housing interventions and health: A review of the evidence. Columbia: National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH); 2009. Accessed on August 30, 2017
Riesenfeld 2007* - Riesenfeld EP, Marcy TW, Reinier K, et al. Radon awareness and mitigation in Vermont: A public health survey. Health Physics. 2007;92(5):425-31. Accessed on August 30, 2017
Sandel 2010* - Sandel M, Baeder A, Bradman A, et al. Housing interventions and control of health-related chemical agents: A review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2010;16(5 Suppl):S24-33. Accessed on August 30, 2017
Sethi 2012* - Sethi TK, El-Ghamry MN, Kloecker GH. Radon and lung cancer. Clinical Advances in Hematology & Oncology. 2012;10(3):157–64. Accessed on August 30, 2017
Steck 2012* - Steck DJ. The effectiveness of mitigation for reducing radon risk in single-family Minnesota homes. Health physics. 2012;103(3):241–8. Accessed on August 30, 2017
US EPA-Radon - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Radon (Rn). Accessed on August 30, 2017

Citations - Implementation

LawAtlas-Radon - Law Atlas. State radon laws. 2016. Accessed on August 31, 2017
US EPA-Radon contacts - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Information about local radon zones and state contact information. Accessed on August 30, 2017
WI DHS-Radon - Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI DHS). Radon information for Wisconsin. Accessed on August 30, 2017

Page Last Updated

September 1, 2017

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