Air Pollution

Actions to Promote Radon Testing Gao ID: RCED-93-20 December 24, 1992

To promote radon testing, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a public information campaign and gave states grants to encourage radon testing by home owners. Although this effort appears to have significantly heightened public awareness of the problem, only nine percent of home owners surveyed have actually tested their residences. As a result, an EPA-convened panel recommended in May 1992 that the current voluntary approach be continued but with certain programmatic changes. These changes include targeting areas where radon levels are considered high and promoting testing and mitigation at the time of real estate transactions. To support state radon efforts, Congress authorized a grant program for yearly grants of $10 million for three years. Funds for this program were recently extended for a fourth year through fiscal year 1993. Although information to measure states' success in promoting testing by home owners was generally unavailable, GAO did identify some state projects that have increased radon testing by targeting homes in areas with potentially high radon levels. In two states that GAO surveyed, the voluntary use of disclosure statements as part of a real estate sales contract was common; in one state, radon testing often took place during real estate transactions in areas with high radon levels. For the most part, the six housing agencies and federally chartered secondary mortgage institutions that finance or insure much of the nation's housing do not require either testing for radon or the disclosure of radon information for participation in their programs.

GAO found that: (1) beginning in 1985, EPA disseminated information on radon health hazards and ways to reduce them, but although the public's awareness of radon has increased, testing has only slightly increased because the public does not perceive radon's risk; (2) information needed to measure the effectiveness of federal grants in raising the level of radon testing was unavailable because most of the grant funds were used to survey radon levels, radon mitigation, program management, and public information projects; (3) EPA did not have procedures for states to evaluate grant activities' effectiveness in increasing radon testing, but it is developing measurement procedures; (4) five states' programs that were targeted to specific communities or areas thought to have high radon levels appeared to increase radon testing; (5) some states required the use of radon disclosure statements or testing in real estate transactions, while in other states, real estate firms voluntarily used statements or testing; (6) real estate firms reported few adverse consequences in using radon disclosure statements or testing; (7) federal housing agencies and federally chartered secondary mortgage institutions generally did not require radon information disclosure or testing for program participation; (8) recent legislation required the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop a radon policy to include testing and mitigation programs in housing projects, and HUD and EPA expect to have testing and mitigation guidance developed by September 1994; and (9) regulations requiring radon testing in federally financed or insured housing could increase the level of radon testing.


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