Your children may be exposed to radon in their schools.
In Ohio, it is estimated that 62.5% of schools have a potential for at
least one room in excess of the US EPA action level (4 pCi/l) compared
to 19.3% nationwide. If your child's school has not been tested, ask the
school administrator to contact the Ohio Department of Health to arrange
for a test.
School Radon Hazard in Winter
School radon hazards increase in
winter when the school heating system is operating to keep the building
warm. As heated air escapes, the stack effect created by this process draws
radon gas from the soil beneath the building foundation into the indoor
air. In winter, schools try to cut down on heating costs by closing off
the fresh-air intake vents. This makes the problem worse as the fresh air
can dilute the radon-laden air and reduce the stack effect that pulls radon
into the building. In order to reduce this radon hazard, school staff should
strive to maintain about at least 20 cubic feet per minute fresh air delivery
to the classroom for each person in that room.
Strategies for Mitigation
To solve many indoor air quality
problems, including radon, you have to understand how the building heating,
ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system works and operate it with
the improvement of air quality in mind. The HVAC system cannot only be
used to increase ventilation in order to dilute the radon gas with outdoor
air, it can also be used to pressurize the building in order to keep radon
out. US EPA investigations indicate following two effective strategies
Pressurizing and ventilating the school
building with the HVAC system.
Vacuuming radon from beneath the building
Solving Problems Using School Staff
Many problems can be solved by
using the already available skills of the school's staff. The school staff
can adjust the HVAC system as described in the
Environmental Protection Agency's publication "Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Tools For Schools Action Kit." It provides clear and easily applied guidance
to resolve indoor air quality problems, including a problem-solving wheel
to suggest solutions to various symptoms. One of the resources in the kit
is a ventilation checklist that can be useful in achieving radon reduction.
Sometimes the greatest challenge
to reducing radon in schools is getting the school administration to decide
that they need to fix the problem and provide the resources to do it. Your
participation is needed to ensure that the school board and school administration
makes it happen. Parents and students have a stake in getting a healthy
outcome; but so do teachers and other school employees. After all, school
staff spends more time in the school buildings and therefore have a greater
exposure to radon. All interested individuals should voice their concern
to the school board through either the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA)
or their school employee professional association.
Top of Page