Radon is a colorless, odorless gas which forms from the decay of uranium. The formation of radon is a natural process which cannot be stopped. Beloit, like most of Wisconsin, is geologically predisposed to high radon levels.
Radon itself is nonreactive and not dangerous. As it ages, however, it emits radioactive particles which can cause cellular damage. If these particles are inhaled over a prolonged period of time, damage to cell structure in the lungs could initiate lung cancer.
Not everyone exposed to elevated radon concentrations will develop lung cancer, and there is uncertainty about the magnitude of the health risks associated with residential exposure. Risk has been associated with high exposure levels (e.g. underground mining), and the health risks of radon exposure are much greater when coupled with smoking.
EPA states that you and your family are most likely to have your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time. Both the Surgeon General and EPA recommend radon testing in all homes.
Beloit College first tested for radon gas on March 10, 2014 and found a concentration level above the EPA residential level of 4 pCi/L in one building. As a result of this initial testing, multiple Beloit faculty, vendors, and others were contacted to learn more about radon and the testing protocol.
Reference guidance was obtained from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Georgia State University Radon Management Plan. Among those consulted and offering assistance to Beloit College is a member of the University of Kentucky’s Environmental Health and Safety Division.
Beloit College then formed a radon committee and hired an industrial hygiene consultant to provide direction with the testing and creation of a mitigation process. Additional tests were then completed the week of April 25 in buildings located on the south side of campus which have lower level occupants.
To date, all reported levels have been within the amount deemed acceptable (below 32.7pCi/L) for a 40-hour work week by OSHA and ACGIH, governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with worker safety and industrial hygiene.
Radon monitoring activities are ongoing on-campus, since exposures can change over time due to factors such as climate, increase/decrease in air flow, and building/foundation age.
Occupied areas with slightly elevated levels are to be tested quarterly, while unoccupied spaces will be tested biannually. Areas with levels at or below the EPA standard of 4 pCi/L for residential air quality will be retested annually.
If you see a black radon canister in your building, please do not be alarmed, and please do not disturb.
Previous occasions with elevated radon levels have shown college response to be swift and effective. In most cases, there is only a need for evaluation of space, sealing penetrations, and retesting within 4-6 weeks.
In rare cases where levels are above a 32.7 pCi/L reading, immediate steps will be taken to evaluate, seal, and retest within 2 weeks.