The Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Health have released alarming new data about dangerous levels of radon in Upstate homes. The gas is responsible for the deaths of 21,000 Americans per year.

A new map shows which counties are at greatest risk from radon, including three in the Capital Region. Some New York basements tested had five times the amount of radon that government and health groups consider dangerous.

What Is Radon?


Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas emitted by dirt as uranium breaks down. The EPA says radon typically enters homes through cracks and holes in a building’s foundation. Once inside a house, the gas can build up.

How radon gas gets into a home

According to the American Cancer Society, radon gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in America, right behind smoking. Symptoms of radon exposure can be shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, and chronic hoarseness.

What Is A Dangerous Amount Of Radon?

A CDC infographic about the danger of radon gas

The EPA’s “action level” is anything higher than 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air. A curie is a measurement of radiation’s disintegration into the atmosphere, named after pioneering chemist Marie Curie. A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie. 4 picocuries of radon has the same effect on your health as smoking 8 cigarettes a day.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 03: The Wave, a smart radon detector by Airthings is displayed during a press event for CES 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 3, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The USD 199 device is scheduled to be in the market this spring. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs from January 5-8 and is expected to feature 3,800 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 165,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

When you buy or sell a house, typically the structure is tested for radon leaks by a professional inspector. Most renters don’t have this luxury. You can buy a short-term radon test kit at most stores or online for around $15. More permanent detectors can be bought starting around $100.

What New York Counties Are In Radon Danger?

A map of radon detection by county in New York

In the Capital Region, more than 40% of Rensselaer, Columbia, and Schoharie County basements had what the EPA considers dangerous levels of radon. Census data shows more than a third of Rensselaer County residents are renters, so they have likely not seen radon data for where they live.

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New York’s Southern Tier has the most dangerous amount of radon exposure in the state. The NYSDOH map shows more than half of basements in most counties on the Pennsylvania border have dangerous radon levels. Dutchess County in the Hudson Valley and Otsego also had “action levels” of radon.

What Should You Do If You Detect Radon In Your Home?

To prevent radon from getting into your home if the gas is detected, property owners will need to install a radon mitigation system underground. Typical systems use a fan and vent pipe to push gas outside the home. Foundation repair is also recommended to patch any cracks or holes.

8 of TripAdvisor’s Top 20 Museums in New York State Are In Upstate

Upstate contributes 40% of TripAdvisor's list. New York City takes two in the top three. The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which is truly one of the most emotional and moving memorials in the world, is number one with a 4.5 out of a staggering 95,990 reviews. Number three is The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park.

Western New York has the number two spot with The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester. While Upstate doesn’t crack the top three, the region takes the majority of the rest of the list. How many of these must-visit places have you been to?

Gallery Credit: Cameron Coats

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Gallery Credit: Kadie Daye, Canva Image

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