Radon is a naturally occurring odorless, colorless gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium and radium, both of which are commonly found in soil and rock. Radon has been detected in every state and may be detected in many kinds of buildings, including houses, schools, and commercial buildings.

Radon gas decays to radioactive particles that can be inhaled and trapped in the lungs. Under certain conditions, these radioactive particles may cause lung cancer. Not everyone exposed to elevated radon concentrations will develop lung cancer, and there is still uncertainty about the magnitude of the health risks associated with radon exposure. Significant risk is associated with high exposure levels over a long period of time. The health risks of radon exposure are much greater when coupled with smoking.

Radon usually enters a building through hollow block walls, cracks in foundation floors and walls, and openings around pipes, sumps, or drains. Radon movement into a building is dependent upon several factors, including air pressure, wind, soil conditions, and ventilation inside a building. Because of these and other factors, the radon concentration in a building may fluctuate over time. The U.S. EPA has recommended testing homes and schools and that action be taken if the annual average indoor radon concentration (on the lower building levels) exceeds 4 picoCuries per liter of air.

Radon Activities at UK

Testing of University buildings for radon began in 1988. Over 250 buildings have now been tested on the Lexington campus (including the Medical Center) and in the Community College System.

Over 1,200 individual radon tests have been performed using a combination of test methods and equipment. Locations with elevated radon concentrations were prioritized for further investigation or mitigation. Typical follow-up actions have been additional testing (to confirm annual average radon concentrations and evaluate seasonal fluctuations), installation of small ventilation fans, evaluation of building HVAC systems, and installation of radon mitigation systems. Mitigation has been performed in office buildings, classroom buildings, residences, and dorms. Testing indicates that mitigation systems and ventilation fans have been effective in reducing radon concentrations.

If you have any questions about radon risk, testing, or reduction methods, please contact Environmental Management at 257-3285.

Environmental Management | EH&S Fact Sheets

Last modified 03-30-2004
Send comments to D. Caskey