General Radon Information

West Virginia specific radon and radon level information can be found throughout this site. You will be able to find information about certified radon inspectors in West Virginia, as well as detailed radon level information for every county in West Virginia.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the soil. Radon usually does not present a health risk outdoors because it is diluted in the open air. Radon can, however, build up to dangerous levels inside a house. Exposure to radon gas it the second-leading cause of lung cancer (after smoking) in the United States. About 14,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer.

Radon is produced from the natural breakdown of the uranium found in most rocks and soils. As it further breaks down, radon emits atomic particles. These particles are in the air we breathe. Once inhaled, they can be deposited in our lungs. The energy associated with these particles can alter cell DNA, thus increasing the risk of lung cancer.

West Virginia has twenty zone-1 (High Potential - greater than 4 pCi/L) counties, twenty-nine zone-2 (Moderate Potential - between 2 and 4 pCi/L) counties, and six zone-3 counties (Low Potential - below 2 pCi/L). Four zone-1 counties are sub-recipients with the DHHR in a partnership agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for matching or funding outreach activities using the EPA State Indoor Radon Grant. The matching funds totaled approximately $105,000 in 2002-2003. One of twenty zone-1 counties provides radon outreach for three other zone-1 counties. The county health departments submit action plans to the Radiological Health Program to identify activities such as providing information and radon test kits to residents, referral to licensed radon mitigators, testers or contractors for testing or repairs to homes; and for informational displays and presentations to local interest groups. For more information, contact Mr. Dan Hill, Chief, Radiological Health Program (304) 558-2981.

In addition to being passed up through the ground, radon can enter a home through its water supply. If you drink water that is contaminated with radon, the EPA believes there is no real threat. However, radon gas can escape from the water and either create or add to a potential radon problem.

Generally, radon is not a problem with public drinking water systems because during the water treatment process aeration releases dissolved radon to the atmosphere. However, if the water supply is from a private well, radon levels could be unacceptably high. The recommendation is to test the well water if the air radon concentrations in the occupied dwelling are over 4pCi/l. If you have tested the air in your home and found a radon problem and your water comes from a private well, you should test the water.

Radon from ground water is released into household air when water is used for showering, washing, and other everyday purposes. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, exposure to airborne radon is second only to cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Radon is present in ground water throughout the Potomac River Basin. The Federal drinking-water standard for radon is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; however, radon levels in 69 percent of ground-water samples were greater than a previously proposed standard of 300 picocuries per liter. Of 104 ground-water samples, 103 contained detectable levels of radon and levels ranged from among the lowest to among the highest in the Nation.

Radon in ground water of the Potomac River Basin are related to rock type. Ground-water radon activities are highly variable in all areas but are typically higher in areas underlain by crystalline rocks of the Piedmont than in areas underlain by carbonate rocks. (Amounts of radioactive elements (such as radon) are often reported in terms of activities rather than concentrations.) Crystalline rocks of predominantly granitic composition, like many of those in the Piedmont, contain more uranium, on average, than do carbonate rocks. The part of the Piedmont west of the Triassic Lowlands is an exception; ground-water radon activities in this area are typically lower than in carbonate areas. This area contains some granitic rocks, but many of the crystalline rocks of this area are not predominantly granitic like those of the rest of the Piedmont. Rocks of this type contain much less uranium, on average, than do granitic or carbonate rocks.

Ground-water radon activities in the Triassic Lowlands are among the highest detected in the basin. The rocks of the Triassic Lowlands are mainly siliciclastic and extend south from the area of Gettysburg, Pa., to the west of Washington, D.C., through Maryland and Virginia. Ground-water samples from these rocks contained radon activities comparable to those measured in samples from the primarily granitic rocks of the Piedmont.

Ground-water radon activities in the Valley and Ridge are generally very low. The Valley and Ridge covers most of the basin from the area of western Maryland through eastern West Virginia and is underlain primarily by siliciclastic rocks. Unlike samples from the siliciclastic rocks of the Triassic Lowlands, however, samples from these rocks typically contained very little radon.

Chapter 16, Article 34 of the WV Code mandates the licensure of all radon testers, mitigation specialists, mitigation contractors, and radon laboratories located within the state. The department also grants licenses to individuals of other states by reciprocity. As of August 31 2004, the office has currently licensed 33 radon testers, 10 radon laboratories, 2 radon training providers, 9 radon mitigators, and 8 radon mitigation contractors. More information about the RTIA Licensing Program can be obtained by contacting Mr. Richard Peggs (304) 558-2981.

In 1999 the WV Legislature passed the Air Quality in New Schools Act. According to the Act, the DHHR is to provide radon testing to the Dept. of Education in each new public school under construction within the first year it is occupied; and at least once every five years thereafter for schools built after 1997. In the 2003-2004 academic school year, 42 schools were tested in ~30 counties. This is the first series of "retests" since the legislature was enacted. Radon test kits were distributed by the WV Department of Education School Building Authority. The results of testing are pending review by the Radiological Health Program. For more information, contact Mr. Randy Curtis, P.E. Director, RTIA Division (304) 558-2981.