Is Radon a Risk to Your Kids in School?
The Truth About Health Risks Going Unchecked
By Ed Buckley
Bethlehem PA – August 4, 2006. You may have heard recent news stories about the link between radon and lung cancer. Many of these studies focus on radon in the home – where we spend much of our time. However, our children can spend almost a third of their time in school… and if you’re a teacher, perhaps even more. As a society we go to great lengths to help ensure school safety. One area that often gets overlooked is a significant and unmistakable health risk in our schools. What is the danger? Radon
Radon is one of the most researched of all carcinogens. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is virtually everywhere in varying concentrations which are much higher indoors. The US EPA estimates that more than seventy thousand (70,000) schoolrooms in use today have high radon levels. EPA also tells us that there is no safe level of radon, and that it causes cancer.
Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers
According to the EPA,
“In two 1999 reports, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded after an exhaustive review that radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking. The NAS estimated that 15,000-22,000 Americans die every year from radon-related lung cancer. Cigarette smoke makes radon much more dangerous.”
These reports also show that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Couple these studies with the fact that higher indoor concentrations of this insidious gas increases your chance of developing lung cancer should be concerning to everyone. It is important that students, teachers, and parents be aware that a radon problem could potentially exist in their school. An EPA nationwide radon level survey in schools estimates that nearly 1 in 5 has a high level. The key to determine if your school has a radon problem is to test for it.
What to do
Having your school tested is something you need to discuss with school officials. Insist that the school be properly radon tested according to EPA or your state’s guidelines.
To find out more about radon testing in schools, including more about health risks, how schools are tested, testing strategies, what happens if your school fails the test, see radon testing your schools.
How to protect yourself at home
Of course radon can be a significant health risk at home as well as in school. To protect you and your family at home, you clearly need to know what your risk level is.
The first step is to test your home. Radon test kits are available from various sources, but there are many confusing choices: short term vs. long term radon tests, the question of how many test kits you need, and finally where to place them. One internet site that focuses on radon testing, features a “radon wizard” to help guide people through the process. . The wizard has two animated characters, Rae the Radon Receptionist, and Dr. Don the Radon Professor, that lead you step-by-step through seven (7) questions. Based on your answers, the radon wizard then matches your home’s configuration to over 800 possible choices. The wizard then suggests the type, quantity, and test location(s) for your specific situation. Whatever approach you use, get your kits and follow the directions on the package.
It is likely that some areas of your home have higher concentrations than others. Also, radon levels vary at different times of the year. If your test result is above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter the EPA recommends having your home fixed.
Fixing your home involves reducing the amount of radon in your home. The best way to fix your home depends on its construction and how the radon is entering it. The good news is that radon reduction, or mitigation systems, are generally straightforward to implement.
In conclusion, whether you or your family are at school or at home, the risks of radon exposure are very real. The key to understanding the severity of this threat is knowing your radon level. And, the only way to know your level, is to test. Don’t wait – test today.