The National Park Service is implementing an action plan at Carlsbad Caverns National Park to reduce the potential of radon exposure of park employees and visitors. The action plan includes monitoring for employee hours in the caverns, training employees about the exposure risks of radon and seeking engineering support for recommended modifications to the visitor center. The park is safe for visitors.
The decision is in response to a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which found elevated levels of radon gas in some areas within Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Although radon concentrations were elevated above background levels, exposures to radon gas in the visitor center, main caverns, Spider Cave and administrative areas were below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limits. Radon concentrations in the visitor center were also below the General Services Administration’s guidelines for federal buildings.
“Carlsbad Caverns National Park is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our work environments for employees as we review the findings of the report,” said Superintendent Doug Neighbor. “Moving forward, the National Park Service will be implementing several measures to address radon exposure.”
Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that comes through rocks and soil and is normally present in outdoor air, buildings, underground mines and caves. In 2014, the National Park Service requested the study to better understand radon concentrations and risks within the main cavern, the attached visitor’s center, Spider Cave and in other administrative buildings within the park.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Through the Health Hazard Evaluation program, NIOSH responds to requests to evaluate workplace health hazards. Staff from the Health Hazard Evaluation Program visited the park four times to assess radon concentrations in different seasons: July 2014, December 2014, April 2015, and August 2016.