Office of Children and Family Services

Division of Child Care Services

Radon

Guidelines for Radon Testing in Family and Group Family Day Care Programs

Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That's because when you breathe air containing radon, it can lead to lung cancer. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today, second only to smoking. It’s estimated there are more than 20,000 radon-related deaths each year in the United States. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. (1)

You can't see radon, but it's not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. All you need to do is test for radon.

The amount of radon in the air is measured in "picoCuries per liter of air," or "pCi/L.". There are many kinds of low-cost "do-it-yourself" radon test kits you can get through the mail and in hardware stores and other retail outlets. If you prefer, you can call the Radon Hotline at 1-800458-1158 and order the test canisters from the New York State Department of Health (DOH). If you explain that you are a day care provider, the DOH will send you a test canister for $5.50 (current price as of January 2015). This is a reduced price.

The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the device. "Charcoal canisters," "alpha track," "electret ion chamber," "continuous monitors," and "charcoal liquid scintillation" detectors are most commonly used for short-term testing. 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 to fix your home.

How to Test for Radon in Your Family or Group Family Day Care Program:

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

  • Follow the instructions that come with your test kit.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that testing for radon in homes be conducted on the lowest lived-in level of the home. However, for licensing and renewal purposes the Office of Children and Family Services will accept tests performed on the lowest level used for day care purposes (but not the kitchen or bathroom).
  • If the day care program is located on or above the 3rd floor in a building testing is not needed. (2)
  • Close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test, and keep them closed as much as possible during the test.
  • Heating and air-conditioning system fans that re-circulate air may be operated.
  • Do not operate fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.
  • Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating only for short periods of time may run during the test.
  • You should not conduct short-term tests lasting just 2 or 3 days during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds.
  • Place the kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it won't be disturbed, away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and 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.
  • Leave the kit in place for as long as the package says or within the directed test time range.
  • Once you've finished the test, reseal the package and send it to the lab specified on the package right away for analysis. 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 OCFS if your home is located in any one of the listed 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. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.

Sometimes short-term tests are less definitive about whether or not your program is above 4 pCi/L. This can happen when your results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of your two short-term test results is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that your year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L. However, 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 day care space changes, you complete major renovations to the day care space and/or you begin occupying a lower level (such as a basement) re-testing must be conducted.

Verification of Radon Testing/Re-testing

If a provider living in a radon zone has already had his or her home tested for radon and can provide the test results, no re-test is required. Re-testing is not required every licensing period. Re-testing is required if a provider has major renovations or construction work completed in the provider’s home on the provider’s property, as these actions may alter radon results.

Additional Guidance and 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 in the home and continually test for radon and sound an alarm if the radon levels higher than the acceptable indoor level are detected. Many of these units work well and meet proficiency requirements. 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:
(800) 458-1158, or
(518) 402-7556.

You may also contact the radon hotline by email at: radon@health.ny.gov. or visit the website at: www.health.ny.gov/radon.

Notes

(1)
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 December 2016) at: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html and information supplied by the New York State Department of Health Radon Program.

(2)
Testing a residence on the third floor or above is not required unless the building is built into the side of a hill. In which case, testing must be done for rooms adjacent to exterior walls on the hill side of the building.

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Important Numbers

  • Child Care, Foster Care and Adoption:
    1-800-345-KIDS (5437)
  • Child Care Complaint Line:
    1-800-732-5207
    311 or 646-632-6101 NYC