Office of Children and Family Services

Division of Child Care Services

Radon

Guidelines for Radon Testing in Day Care Centers / School Age Child Care Programs

Breathing air that contains radon can lead to lung cancer. It's estimated radon causes 21,000 thousand deaths each year. The Surgeon General has placed radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking.*

Radon is an invisible and odorless gas. Still, it is easy to detect in your day care center or school age child care program. All you need to do is run a simple test that should take only a few minutes.

The amount of radon in the air is measured in picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L). There are many kinds of low-cost radon test kits available through retail outlets, or you can call the radon hotline at 1-800-458-1158 and order test canisters from the New York State Department of Health. The canisters are available to day care providers at the reduced cost of $5.50.

The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in place for between two and 90 days, depending on the device. The most commonly used detectors for short-term testing are "Charcoal canisters," "alpha track," "electret ion chamber," "continuous monitors," and "charcoal liquid scintillation" detectors. Because radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level. If you need results quickly, however, a short-term test followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether remediation is needed.

How to Test for Radon in a Day Care Center or School Age Child Care Program

Testing is easy and should only take a few minutes to set up:

  • Follow the instructions that come with your test kit
  • Test Canisters must be placed 1 foot from the interior walls and 3 feet from the exterior walls.
  • There must be a 4 inch clearance around the sides of the test container.
  • Nothing can be located over the top of the container, but something around the sides with a 4 inch clearance to protect it, is allowed.
  • Place the kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a place it won't be disturbed- away from drafts, high heat, and high humidity.
  • Leave the kit in place for as long as the package says or within the directed test time range.
  • All ceiling fans (if any) need to be turned off.
  • Ventilation can be left in the occupied mode.
  • If you have an air handling system, and it is shut off on the weekends, DO NOT TEST ON THE WEEKEND.
  • Be sure to close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before testing.
  • Do not conduct testing during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds.
  • Every room where child care is provided needs to be tested.
  • Keep a log of the number that is on the canister and the room number so they and you now what canister went with what room.
  • 1 Test kit is good for 2000 square foot room. For large rooms (gym, cafeteria, library etc.) one kit should be used for every 2000 square feet and spaced evenly through out the tested area.
  • Once you have finished the test, reseal the package and send it to the address indicated on the kit. Do not send kits back to the Department of Health (DOH) for results. Test kits obtained through DOH must be sent to the RTCA labs (as indicated on the test kit). Kits obtained elsewhere must be sent back to the lab specified on the kit.

What Your Test Results Mean

Test your child day care space now and save your results. Results must be reported to the Office of Children and Family Services if the DCC or SACC is located in any one of the New York State radon zones. If testing reveals high radon levels (4.0 pCi/L or above), remediation is required.

The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels (0.4pCi/L). While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most buildings today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below. EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk - no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.

If your DCC or SACC undergoes major renovations, you begin occupying a lower level or different rooms those spaces must be tested.

Verification of Radon Testing

If a DCC or SACC, located in a radon zone, has already been tested for radon and can provide the test results, they will not be required to re-test. Re-testing is not required every licensing period. Re-testing is needed if a DCC or SACC undergoes major renovations, or construction work is completed in the DCC or SACC or on the property where either is located.

DCCs and SACCs located in school buildings (K-12) are not required to perform radon testing. The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education ยง 155.5 (m) require that schools perform their own testing as follows: Part 155.5(m) Radon. Districts shall take responsibility to be aware of the geological potential for high levels of radon and to test and mitigate as appropriate.

Additional Information

Only mobile homes with permanent foundations need to be tested for radon.

There are radon detector devices on the market that remain in place and continually test for radon, sounding an alarm if the radon level tests higher than the acceptable indoor level. Many of these units work well and meet proficiency requirements. One issue is that these units may not provide a printout, so a visual inspection is needed for verification.

For additional guidance on radon issues contact the New York State Radon Hotline at: 1 (800) 458-1158 or (518) 402-7556. You may also contact the radon hotline by email at: radon@health.state.ny.us. or visit the website at: www.nyhealth.gov/radiation (click radon links).

* Sections of information contained in this guidance were taken from A Citizen's Guide to Radon published by the EPA (402-K-02-006 revised September 2006) at: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html and information supplied by the New York State Department of Health Radon Program.

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