Recently, a school district in Maryland has come under fire for not mitigating buildings that had tested high for radon gas. The district had originally done the test back in the 80’s but failed to take action in the buildings with radon levels over 4.0 pCi/L. Parents got word of the fact that their children’s school had the dangerously high levels and immediately summoned a school board meeting. This led to an investigation by local news channel and the ”radon scandal” was born. Twenty eight buildings in the district showed elevated radon concentrations. The public was outraged. The district has since committed to retesting all of the buildings and if necessary fixing all schools with elevated radon levels. This story while scary is a reminder to all parents that their children are probably sitting in classrooms with high radon levels every week for over 8 hours a day. So why is this so dangerous? To answer this and other questions we must first look at what radon is and why its’ harmful to the human body.
Radon is a gas that is caused by the decay of uranium in the soil. As the uranium begins to decay, it releases radon gas into the soil. That gas will then travel up into the buildings above it where it can become trapped and mixes with the indoor air. When we breathe this air, we get oxygen along with the radioactive radon atoms. Overtime, exposure from this radiation directly on the lung tissue can lead to the development of lung cancer.
In Ohio as well as many other states, most counties are what the EPA considers Zone 1 which means that there is a 51% probability of having high radon levels in homes and buildings in this area. In other words, there is a good chance if you are an Ohio native that the home you live in, School you children attend and even the building you work in has high levels of radon gas. In our lifetime we are exposed to number of sources of radiation. We get X-Rays, go through TSA screening, and are subject to nuclear medical procedures what is important to note is that over 54% of our lifetime exposure to radiation comes from radon gas.
Radon testing in schools actually used to be the law in the state of Ohio. Jarod’s law was written in response to the death of 6 year old Jarod Bennet in Lebanon Ohio. The law was passed in 2005 but because it had so many regulations it was deemed too costly for schools to enforce and was later repealed in 2009. Part of Jarod’s law required radon testing for every public school in the state. Most schools complied and began their testing plan. When the bill was repealed many school districts that had not started or were in the process of testing simply abandoned the idea because it was no longer required.
Our children spend more time in a classroom then in their own home for most of their childhood. Having schools test the building for radon and if necessary mitigate to fix high levels seems like common sense. For more Details about commercial radon testing