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Radon in Schools

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This page provides an overview of radon and emphasizes the importance of schools limiting radon exposure to children.

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You can not see radon. You can not smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your school.

Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all rock and soils. Radon usually moves from the ground up and migrates into homes and other buildings through openings in any ground contact floor or wall. Buildings trap radon inside, where it accumulates and may become a health hazard. Any home or building may have a radon problem, including schools.

Radon in schools can be a significant source of exposure to the people who spend the most time there, specifically staff and students. EPA wants schools to have the information they need about radon readily available. Radon in schools can be relatively easily detected using generally available test devices available through professional testing services and laboratories.  The effects of radon exposure, i.e., lung cancer, generally do not appear until after about age 40.  Nevertheless it is still important to limit radon exposure in children in order to minimize their future risk of radon-induced lung cancer.

Approximately 55 percent of our exposure to radiation comes from radon.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, with an estimated 20,000 Americans dying each year from radon-related lung cancer*.

Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths and smokers exposed to radon are at an even higher risk than nonsmokers.

Radon in the air is measured in pico curies per liter (pCi/L). Where radon levels are four pCi/L or higher, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend that homeowners take action to reduce the radon level. It is estimated that nearly one in 15 American homes has a radon level that should be reduced. Testing your home is the only way to know.

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Who is protecting you

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA drives the national commitment to educate citizens about residential radon risks. To achieve this goal, the Agency coordinates regional and state-level efforts to reduce exposure to radon.

The States

Individual states work closely with EPA to inform the public about how to reduce radon risks. Also, states work closely with two non-governmental organizations, the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), to train and qualify local radon services providers (in measurement and mitigation), and approve radon-testing laboratories.

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What you can do to protect yourself

Radon gas in local schools can be a serious issue. The first step in reducing the risk is acknowledging its existence.

Radon can be detected with a simple test, and an elevated radon level can be remedied.

The preferred radon reduction technique is the active soil depressurization (ASD) system. ASD installation includes the sealing of unwanted entry points in order for the system to function effectively. An ASD system is basically a vent pipe with a fan that operates continuously to vent radon from beneath the school building. Indoor air quality is a vital aspect of creating and maintaining a safe learning environment. Detailed guidance and links to other information are available to assist in constructing new schools and in renovating existing schools at EPA’s Radon Publication Page.

For more information about radon, its risks, and what you can do to protect yourself, or to request a free copy of EPA’s “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon”, call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON or contact your state’s radiation office.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon
January 2009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Radon
This site provides guidance on protecting you and your family from radon.
November 2008. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This page highlights a unique software tool that helps school districts evaluate and manage their school facilities for key environmental, safety and health issues.
IAQ Tools for Schools Program
September 2009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This page details the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Program, which aims to reduce exposures to indoor environmental contaminants.
IAQ Design Tools for Schools
October 2008. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indoor Air Quality
This site provides information and tools to help school districts and facility planners design the next generation of learning environments.
October 2009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This page provides information regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s radon program.
EPA Map of Radon Zones
2005. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Radon
The page provides a map of radon zones, which aims to help National, State, and local organizations target their resources and implement radon-resistant building codes.
Radon Publications
August 2009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Radon
This site provides links to Environmental Protection Agency documents on radon in homes and schools.
Radon in Schools (2nd Ed.)
1994. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the cooperation of the National Education Association, Parent Teachers Association, and The American Lung Association.
This brochure addresses the issue of radon in schools and how to respond if your school is affected.
Radon Publications
2006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Radon
This site provides links to publications on radon.
State Radiation Programs exit EPA
Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors
This page provides links to state specific contacts and information for state radiation protection programs.

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