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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Will Map Radon in Puerto Rico Communities

11/07/2019
Contact Information: 
Tayler Covington (covington.tayler@epa.gov)
(212) 637-3662
Brenda Reyes (reyes.brenda@epa.gov)
(787) 977-5869

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an innovative research project to increase radon monitoring capacity in Puerto Rico. This project will advance community mapping of radon in Puerto Rico and will help inform planning decisions, including incorporation of radon-reducing features in building practices as part of the disaster recovery and rebuild effort. To achieve this, EPA’s Region 2 offices and research laboratories will partner with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez’s (UPRM) Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying and use novel approaches to tackle these problems through engaging community participation.

“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States and the only way to know the level of radon in your home is to test for it,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “By increasing Puerto Rico’s radon monitoring capacity using advanced equipment and techniques, EPA can help citizens determine homes with high radon levels and involve community members to prevent the risk of exposure to better protect their health.”

"The department of Civil Engineering and Surveying of the UPRM is proud and excited to join efforts with EPA to be part of this initiative,” said Dr. Pedro Tarafa-Velez, UPRM Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering. “As the main engineering school in Puerto Rico, we expect to provide EPA our best technical support while we provide a real professional development opportunity to the students that will be involved in the project, and raising awareness to our communities regarding radon health effects and mitigation practices”.

Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas found in underlying soil, rock, and groundwater. Radon can seep through openings in floors or walls and build up in indoor air of homes, schools, and office buildings, potentially posing a serious health hazard. The extent of radon in Puerto Rico is not well-defined, which limits the ability for local governments to implement programs that would reduce radon risks. EPA’s project will provide training to community members to measure radon levels using new electronic radon testing devices that are not affected by Puerto Rico’s humid climate or electrical instability.

The recovery and rebuilding of communities following the aftermath of 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria presented an opportunity to develop radon prevention and mitigation strategies. EPA will focus the radon monitoring and mapping in San Sebastian, Lares, Ciales, Arecibo, Morovis, Camuy, and Hatillo. By determining if areas have high levels of radon before rebuilding, EPA can collaborate with municipal and territory partners to include radon interventions in new construction. Monitoring radon in key neighborhoods will provide actionable information to Puerto Rico residents and inform local and regional policy. 

For more information about radon, please visit https://www.epa.gov/radon.

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