Improvements Needed in the Environmental Protection Agency's Testing Programs for Radon Measurement Companies

T-RCED-90-54: Published: May 16, 1990. Publicly Released: May 16, 1990.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) voluntary Radon Measurement Proficiency (RMP) Program, which assessed the capabilities of companies providing radon measurement results to homeowners and state efforts to control radon measurement companies. GAO noted that: (1) EPA envisioned RMP as a federal/state effort, with the federal government responsible for testing firms and encouraging them to adopt quality assurance procedures, and states providing further regulation or requiring participation in RMP and quality assurance programs; (2) the number of firms demonstrating proficiency through RMP increased from 24 in 1986 to about 660 in 1990; (3) RMP did not ensure that measurement results were accurate or that firms would not market measurement devices that had not been tested or that had failed testing; (4) many industry officials believed that RMP participation should be mandatory and that EPA should require firms to establish quality assurance programs; (5) nine states had programs, five of which were mandatory, to certify, license, or accredit radon measurement companies, and all nine programs required RMP participation; (6) five of the programs had quality assurance requirements; (7) 20 other states may establish programs; and (8) lack of EPA guidance could be one reason state program requirements varied.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not granted EPA authority to require companies to participate in the RMP program. However, EPA believes such companies should participate and is working with the individual states to develop flexible means to adapt the federal RMP program to address their particular needs. Many states have already developed certification or registration programs, and others are considering it.

    Matter: Congress should provide EPA authority to require companies to participate in and successfully pass the RMP program before marketing their devices to the public.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 1991, EPA issued the Radon Measurement Proficiency Program Handbook, requiring firms that participate in the RMP program to develop and implement quality assurance plans. In addition, measurement firms must maintain records and agree to on-site inspections by EPA. Plans must include chain of custody, calibrations, background measurements, and the use of spiked and duplicate measures.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that radon measurement companies are providing quality measurement results on a day-to-day basis, EPA should establish quality assurance requirements for the different measurement devices and, as a condition for participating in the RMP program, require measurement firms to demonstrate that they have developed and implemented programs that will meet the requirements.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 1991, EPA issued its guidance document that describes a model radon measurement certification program for states.

    Recommendation: To ensure the development of state programs that provide a minimum degree of control and consistency over radon measurement companies, EPA should develop and issue guidance on the type of state programs and level of control it believes is needed at the state level in order to provide homeowners with adequate assurance that radon measurements are accurate.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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