Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium and is usually found in soils and rock. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. EPA estimates that nearly one in five schools in the US has at least one room (more than 73, 000 schoolrooms in all) with radon levels above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter), the level at which EPA recommends corrective action should be taken. Radon can seep into school buildings through cracks or holes either in the concrete slab they are built on or in the basement walls and floors. Radon may also be found in a school’s water supply. It is colorless, odorless and tasteless. The only way to detect radon is to test for it. All school buildings should be tested for radon.
When environmental site assessment is conducted at the proposed site of a new school, groundwater and soil may be found to contain radon. Measures to control and prevent radon entry into the building through cracks, utility openings, or gaps in the foundation or basement walls may be necessary. Knowledge about the levels of radon at a site will influence both the design and construction of the building and the design and operation of the HVAC system to mitigate radon levels.
Summary of CT LAW dealing with radon in schools:
(CT General Statutes Section Nos. 10-220, 10-282 and 10-291)
For newer schools (constructed, extended, renovated or replaced after January 1, 2003):
Requires comprehensive inspections and evaluations by the local board of education, prior to January 1, 2008 and every five years thereafter, to detect environmental problems. To be reviewed are HVAC and plumbing systems, radon levels, potential for exposure to microbial contaminants and chemical compounds, degree of pest infestation and pesticide usage, degree of moisture incursion, building cleanliness, building structural elements, use of space, presence of and plans for removal of hazardous substances and provision of IAQ maintenance training for staff.
Requires that these inspection reports be made public at a Board of Education meeting.
For schools being constructed, extended or replaced:
Requires the State Department of Education to deny approval of a school building project if the site is in an area of moderate or high radon potential, unless construction techniques mitigate radon levels.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Question: Do all rooms in a school need to be tested for radon?
Answer: Only occupied rooms on or below the ground level need to be tested for radon.
Question: Can my school be tested for radon during summer vacation?
Answer: Schools must be tested in the winter months when school is in session. Testing should be done during weekdays and with the HVAC system running normally. All windows must be kept shut for 12 hours before and throughout the 48 hour testing period.
CT DPH Radon Program:
CT DPH Radon School Testing Initiative:
CT DPH Radon in Schools Web Page:
CT DPH Radon Professionals:
EPA A Citizen’s Guide to Radon
EPA Radon website:
EPA Design TfS section on Radon Barriers
EPA TfS IAQ Reference Guide Appendix G - Radon:
EPA Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facilities Managers: Appendix E: Radon