Taking Action on Radon in Your School District? No Better Time than the Present!

August 23, 2011

Today we have a guest blog from Jani Palmer, a Physical Scientist in the Indoor Environments Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for more than 10 years, providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry, and public agencies. Thanks to Jani for this important post!

Dedicated maintenance and facilities staff at school districts nationwide knew that summer was on its way out just as soon as the last students slammed their lockers shut in June. Having worked to improve environmental quality in schools for years, I know that the only time to get those big projects done is during the holiday breaks and summer vacations. This summer, hundreds of school districts took steps to protect their students and staff by testing for radon, and if yours isn’t among them, there’s no better time than the present to plan for testing.

So you ask, what is radon?  Radon is a colorless, odorless and radioactive gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. It is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The Surgeon General and U.S. EPA recommend testing for radon and fixing if levels are found to be a risk to public health. 

Radon testing and mitigation don’t have to be scary topics. What is scary is that radon causes cancer, yet exposure to radon is easily identified and fixed.  Testing is the only way to know if your building has radon; therefore it is the first step toward fixing it. Radon control is as integral to school health as other Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management activities and fits right in with your IAQ Tools for Schools management activities. If your school doesn’t use the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, take a look at the graphic from the kit that shows how an effective school IAQ program integrates planning, communicating and four other key drivers. Click here for information from the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit on how you can manage radon along with your other day-to-day IAQ duties.

When you return to school, or if you have already, let your facilities folks and school board know how much you appreciate what your school district does for IAQ and radon. Jobs in building management are often underappreciated, especially when staff do such a great job that occupants have nothing to complain about. Their dedication and perseverance to maintaining healthy buildings by fixing holes, changing ceiling tiles and testing rooms can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and for that, thanks!

Want to learn more about radon and schools?  Join us Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST for a free webinar on Radon in Schools. Register here and spread the word!

Plus: Be sure to check out our PSA with NFL Player Chester Pitts, Offensive Lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, as he tells homeowners about the dangers of radon: