General Radon Information

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

What is radon? It is a invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is produced by minerals like uranium and radium in the soil. Although it disperses harmlessly outdoors, radon becomes a risk indoors because as it continues to break down, it emits atomic particles that upon entering the lungs can alter the DNA and increase lung cancer risk. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation and is classified as a "Class A" carcinogen according to EPA. Radon is not known to cause asthma or any other type of respiratory distress. Radon can be tested and measured (in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air) and there are estimated risks to health from the exposure depending on the concentration. DHSS in conjunction with EPA recommends that if the concentration of radon is 4pCi/L or greater, then remediation should be done to lower risks. Smoking in conjunction with radon exposure greatly increases the risk of cancer.

One in four homes in Central Virginia has elevated radon levels as compared to one in fifteen nationally.

The VA Radon Program is designed to provide technical assistance and educational materials regarding indoor radon to the general public. It has several publications on indoor radon that are available upon request. We operate an in-state toll-free number for access to all Virginians within the Commonwealth. Each year we respond to about 1,500 telephone calls.

The Program also maintains a list of companies that are certified to be proficient in screening or testing for radon, and another list of contractors for mitigation. In 1986, the Program conducted a state-wide survey of 800 homes and found that approximately 12% of the homes that were screened for radon had elevated levels of radon above 4 picocuries/liter, EPA's recommended action level. The VA Radon Program is funded in part by the State Indoor Radon Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Shear zones are not the only cause of high indoor radon levels and some shear zones will not create radon problems. Shears developed in rocks having less than 1 ppm uranium may not produce sufficient radon to cause a problem unless uranium is introduced from another source during deformation. However, shear zones developed in rocks having higher uranium concentration, such as granitic rocks, have a high probability of causing an indoor radon problem.

High radon levels in water accompany high soil radon in Boyertown, PA (Wanty and Gundersen, 1988). Preliminary water data from two other shear zones, the Hylas fault in Virginia and a brittle shear fault in the Silver Plume Quartz Monzanite near Conifer, Co., indicate that many domestic wells have radon concentrations greater than 10,000 pCi/L . High radon emanation, especially along fracture surfaces, contributes significantly to radon concentrations in water. Mylonites tend to be aquifers because of the increased permeability caused by the shear bands formed during deformation, whereas the same rock, when not sheared, may not be an aquifer.

In Fall of 1992, eight pilot counties in the high radon risk Appalachian and Piedmont regions of Virginia were targeted for an educational program emphasizing radon testing. While utilizing the Cooperative Extension network established in each county, the objectives of "The Radon Project" were:

1. to increase public education about the importance of radon testing;

2. to sell low-cost radon test kits; and

3. to conduct a follow-up survey of people who bought test kits to find out what they did after testing their homes.

The project was to be led by the volunteer VAFCE organizations, each receiving $2 per kit sold as a fund raising and participation incentive. Although all counties received the same training and materials, provided by VCCC and VCE staff, actual program delivery was at the discretion of the local VAFCE organization. As can be expected with a largely volunteer endeavor, there was considerable variation in program implementation among counties. The time and effort put into the project by the local VAFCE clubs was quite varied. For example, some of the counties employed a variety of marketing techniques (newspaper advertisements, television broadcasts, county fairs, and Extension newsletters, for example). However, other counties employed very few techniques (such as only newspaper advertisements).

Results

At the end of the pilot period, the following results were accomplished.

Test kits sold: 4,000

Test kits used and returned for results: 1,821

(46% of kits purchased)

Homes with results above 4 pCi/l action level: 412

(23% of homes tested)

A proportional random sample was drawn from the 412 homes identified as at-risk (above 4 pCi/l) and 100 households were interviewed by telephone. Interviews were conducted in the Fall of 1993, six months to one year after the household had purchased a radon test kit.

The respondents were equally divided between male and female with a median age of almost 44 years. The education level was high with 63% having completed undergraduate or graduate degrees. Almost all (99%) were homeowners, and 47% were two member households.