Indoor Radon

Limited Federal Response To Reduce Contamination in Housing Gao ID: RCED-88-103 April 6, 1988

In response to a congressional request, GAO identified: (1) the status of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to detect radon and develop methods to reduce radon contamination; (2) actions that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), the Veterans Administration (VA), and the National Park Service (NPS), have taken to respond to potential radon hazards; and (3) the potential for federal government liability resulting from indoor radon hazards in federally insured or assisted housing.

GAO found that EPA: (1) is responsible for identifying and developing techniques to mitigate indoor radon problems; (2) plans a national assessment of existing housing for completion in 1991; (3) also plans to ask major firms to submit their radon test results to it for analysis; and (4) mitigation work on 80 of the 600 houses it had scheduled to test resulted in 70 of the houses showing significant radon reductions. GAO also found that: (1) although EPA estimates that 12 percent of the almost 85 million houses in the United States may have radon levels requiring corrective action, HUD has yet to delineate a specific policy or course of action; (2) HUD requires notification of applicants for HUD-insured mortgages of the potential for high radon levels in only three areas; (3) HUD had no requirement or policy for incorporating radon reduction techniques in its new construction projects; (4) FmHA and VA officials are unaware of any radon problems in the housing they finance or insure; (5) FmHA is developing an indoor air pollution policy to include radon, but VA has no policy for its housing, since it considers radon a state and local government issue; (6) NPS has tested nearly 3,000 of its permanent housing units and administrative buildings and plans to perform mitigation work on 352 of its buildings with elevated radon levels; and (7) the courts will not require the government to ensure that the houses it sells or insures are free of hazardous levels of radon.


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