I was recently asked by a local school teacher what risk radon has for her students. In order to ask that question we must first understand the basics of radon.
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Over time uranium decays and turns into radon gas. Once in gaseous form it is free to travel through the soil and get to the earth’s surface. This is a natural process that occurs everywhere in fact the average outdoor radon concentration is 1.6 pCi/L.
When radon gets into buildings it is not able to escape or be ventilated, this is where it builds and can get o dangerously high levels. The EPA set the Action level for radon gas at 4.0 pCi/L. This means that for every one liter of air there can be 3.9 radioactive atoms. Any more than that the EP recommends mitigation.
The health effects of radon exposure depend on two factors; time and radon concentration. Our children spend over eight hours a day five days a week for nine months a year in a classroom. Multiply that by twelve years of school and a child will spend the majority of the childhood in a classroom. If that classroom or school has high radon levels, the child could be spending that time in a toxic environment.
This combination of time and level of exposure can have dangerous health effects on a child. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers. Children especially are more susceptible to lung disease because their lungs are not fully developed until the teenage years.
Luckily, radon exposure can be reduced. By having the school tested for radon by a licensed radon specialist, they can identify if there are high levels in the building and if necessary install a mitigation system to reduce the levels in the building. Our children’s health should be our first priority and providing them with a safe healthy learning environment should be the priority of every school system. Ask the school system or PTA if they have tested for radon and if not recommend that they have the buildings tested. Radon is a serious health issue but one that can be prevented.