This legislation requires annual radon testing of facilities that care for the developmentally disabled, such as hospitals, schools, and supportive and supervised living facilities. In addition to mandatory testing, corrective actions are required to be performed to reduce radon levels if they exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action level for indoor radon levels of 4 pCi/L, or 8 pCi/L, (the World Health Organization sets the maximum level of radon at 8.1 pCi/L.)
Exposure to radon has significant impacts on human health, as evidenced by the EPA ranking radon among the most severe environmental health problem today. Due to the radioactive particles that get trapped in the lungs when breathed in, high levels of radon can cause lung cancer; radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers, and second leading cause among smokers. Furthermore, there are 21,000 deaths from radon induced lung cancer per year.
With no current compulsory radon testing required for such facilities in New York, residents could be currently exposed to unsafe levels and the attendant health consequences.
While this legislation is a good first step towards a more encompassing approach to radon, a standard of 4 pCi/L may not do enough, as the EPA has stated there is no safe level of radon. According to a suggestion in the 2009 WHO’s Handbook on Indoor Radon- A Public Health Perspective, reference radon levels should be set at 2.7 pCi/L, or as low as possible.
This bill amends the mental hygiene law to require radon testing at the Department of Mental Hygiene facilities. If radon levels are found to exceed 4 pCi/L or 8 pCi/L, remedial action must be taken within thirty days and fourteen days, respectively, to bring the levels below 4 pCi/L.