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January 13, 2010 -
After the hubbub of the holidays dies down, you might turn your attention to your facilities indoor air quality. January is National Radon Month, and while the EPA focuses it's effort on private residences, any commercial facility with below-grade construction might be affected by this cancer-causing gas.
Radon is a radioactive gas produced by the decay of radium and occurs naturally in soil and rock. It is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the EPA.
Homes have the highest ratio of contact with the ground, and hence the highest risk for exposing their occupants to radon. The current EPA action level for indoor radon concentrations is below 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L).
Just because commercial facilities are not the focus of national radon efforts does not mean they're not affected. In 2007, a group of physics students found elevated levels of radon in a basement library at Princeton University. Subsequent testing by the University found elevated levels of radon in other parts of the campus, including dorm rooms and even one basement music practice room measuring at 205 pCi/L. The university has since taken steps to remediate the areas with radon issues and the school will be retested every ten years.
If people in your facility spend any appreciable time in below-grade spaces, it might be a good idea to test for radon. It's a pretty straightforward test and remediation strategies are well established. For state radon resource information, go to www.epa.gov/radon.
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