HUD Issues New Guidance on Dangers of Radon Gas
On Feb. 4, 2012, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing issued a notice (Notice PIH 2013-06) intended to provide public housing authorities with information on the dangers of radon. The notice was part of a broader announcement of the “Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action.” This is a joint initiativeby the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HUD, and the Department of Energy (DOE) to jointly promote federal action to advance healthy housing by demonstrating the connection between housing conditions and residents’ health.
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that’s a decay product of elements in soil and rock. Under certain natural conditions, radon gas can enter the air and become hazardous. Radon is present in every part of the country, even though concentrations vary depending on geologic conditions. When radon gas enters a building, it can be inhaled directly, or attach to dust on walls, on floors, or in the air. Breathing in high concentrations of radon gas may result in mutations in lung tissue that may lead to lung cancer. As concentrations of radon gas increase, the risk of contracting lung cancer from radon also increases. In fact, radon exposures are estimated to result in approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, which makes exposure to radon the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking.
Radon can build up to dangerous levels inside homes, schools, and other buildings. But radon generally poses the greatest risk to occupants living at or below ground level. Occupants on the lower levels of structures are at greater risk of excess exposure if high radon concentration levels are present and aren’t appropriately mitigated. Occupants of new housing built without using radon-resistant construction methods are also at greater risk. The best way to mitigate radon is to prevent it from ever entering a building. The EPA recommends mitigation for residences with radon concentrations at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).
The notice advises housing authorities to check with their individual state or regional authorities for local radon policies. Further information on mitigation strategies and maps of radon zones around the country can be found at www.epa.gov/radon/index.html. The notice further states that HUD will continue to examine ways that radon testing and mitigation may be incorporated into HUD-assisted housing program requirements, and housing authorities are strongly encouraged to proactively plan and complete radon testing and follow-up with mitigation strategies if possible, especially when excessive radon levels are present.
In addition to the PIH notice, on Feb. 4, HUD also announced there will be radon testing requirements for any multifamily housing that receives HUD financing or refinancing. If testing indicates that high levels of radon are present, HUD will also require that the building be repaired to reduce radon levels indoors. The requirement becomes effective June 4, 2013.