Radon Air Sampling Vials

What is Radon?

Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It is present in outdoor air at very low levels, and virtually everyone breathes in some radon every day

Radon can seep from the ground into buildings through openings in foundations, floors or walls. It typically collects in rooms that are in contact with the ground, like basements. Rooms that are higher above ground and that have better air flow typically have lower radon levels.


Is Radon a Health Hazard?

With prolonged exposure, radon can cause lung cancer. Major scientific organizations estimate that up to 14% of lung cancers annually in the United States are attributable to radon, with the highest risk for smokers. About 3,000 nonsmokers and 21,000 smokers in this country are estimated to die from radon-related lung cancer each year.

The risk of getting lung cancer from radon depends on:

  • How much radon is in the building where you live or work.
  • The amount of time you spend there.
  • Whether you are a smoker.


What Does UCSC Do to Keep Indoor Air Healthy?

UCSC’s Environmental Health & Safety department evaluates representative buildings throughout campus to assess indoor radon concentrations. Following guidance from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), residential areas with screening radon concentrations greater than 4 pCi/L are further assessed using more detailed sampling and analysis, then evaluated for potential mitigation actions as needed. 

Following guidance from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), occupational areas with radon concentrations greater than 25 pCi/L also are further evaluated and assessed for potential mitigations. 


How Is Indoor Air Tested for Radon?

Vials containing non-toxic activated carbon are used to test for radon. The vials are positioned in an open area for 2-4 days, then analyzed by a certified outside laboratory. If radon concentrations greater than 4 pCi/L are found during this screening testing, additional short and long-term testing may be conducted. Radon concentrations will vary depending on weather conditions such as temperature, pressure, and wind speed.  Additional short-term samples can help identify areas of radion intrusion, helping guide the mitigation process.  Longer-term samples help more accurately characterize radon concentrations. 

How Can Elevated Radon Levels Be Reduced?

There are several methods that can lower radon levels. Some techniques prevent radon from entering a structure while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. If mitigation is needed, UCSC’s Environmental Health & Safety experts will work with campus facilities personnel to evaluate options and ensure effective radon control.



Contact EH&S at ehs@ucsc.edu or 9-2553.