Scott Air Force Base

03/29/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/29/2017 16:04

Scott AFB begins sample radon testing

Scott Air Force Base and Hunt Housing is beginning a four-to-six month sample radon testing effort in the privatized housing areas and throughout the installation as a way to update its environmental oversight in this area.

The EPA has previously determined that radon is present in this geological area. Radon is a gas found in soil all over the world and is a by-product of naturally occurring uranium decaying. Gas from the decay then seeps upward toward the surface and dissipates in the air.

Exposure to outdoor radon is typically non-threatening due to the ever changing atmosphere, however the EPA has determined that certain levels found in non-ventilated homes or buildings constructed prior to radon mitigation requirements can be a risk to one's health if exposed over a prolonged amount of time.

According to the EPA, there is an increased risk for lung cancer that can develop if there is radon exposure at or over a measurement of 4 pCi/L (pico-curies per liter of air) during a lifetime, with the risk increasing for those who smoke. The remedy is to properly vent homes and buildings so the gas is not contained within the structure, and instead vented into the atmosphere where it will dissipate.

Scott previously conducted a sampling of tests in 1993, and out of almost 900 buildings/homes, there were 17 that had radon levels above 4 pCi/L. These facilities were mitigated and subsequently retested and found to be below the actionable levels. Guidelines recommend that readings between 4 and 20 pCi/L be mitigated within three years and readings over 20 pCi/L be mitigated within one year.

In 1997, short and long-term radon sampling was also performed in Patriots Landing housing areas where acceptable levels were found, so no abatement was performed. Additionally, in 2004 an environmental baseline survey was conducted in Scott AFB housing units when owned and operated by the Air Force to include the older homes in the Georgian and Colonial areas where sub-slab ventilation systems were installed. Again, radon levels fell below actionable levels.

Recently an occupant in Patriots Landing housing self-tested his home, and subsequent testing through a licensed provider confirmed levels were above 4 but below 20 pCi/L levels. Officials from the privatized housing management firm, Hunt Housing, are now in the process of securing tests for nine other homes in the immediate vicinity. In addition, and as a precautionary measure, they plan to test an additional 80 homes during the next six months to establish a baseline and determine what further action would be required. Hunt officials will work with any housing occupant who may have a concern, and ask that they be contacted directly at (618) 746-4911.

Meanwhile for those who may have a concerns, whether living on or off base, there are many home testing kits available for radon. However, according to Maj. Bruce Auville, 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Bioenvironmental Engineer, many of the home kits are not an accurate indicator of the true levels in your home. It is recommended to use a licensed radon tester and a certified laboratory run sample.

If the test results are greater than the EPA criteria then homeowners/occupants will need to install a mitigation device to lower the radon levels in their home, which can reduce radon levels by up to 99 percent.

In line with Hunt's efforts to identify and test a sampling of homes during the next several months, a team of bioenvironmental and civil engineers will also be identifying and testing a sampling of Scott's work centers and buildings for radon levels. Any concerns regarding base buildings or the Air Force radon policies may be addressed to the 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron experts at (618) 256-7307.

Once testing is complete, Scott officials will meet to determine if further action is required and if so, will inform installation at that time.

For more information on radon, check out www.epa.gov/radon as well as EPA's A Citizen's Guide to Radon that informs residents of St. Clair County's Zone 2 designation for radon.