Every parent wants their child’s school environment to be safe and comfortable. But is it? Some common concerns parents may have include bullying, school security, or air and water quality. However, when parents think about air quality, they seldom think “radon”. Radon can’t be seen, smelled, or heard, so it often falls into the “out of sight, out of mind” category. However, this dangerous radioactive gas can lead to lung cancer, and can be especially harmful to children.
Due to the shape and size of children’s lungs, their breathing rate is higher than an average adult’s. On top of that, their lungs are still developing. This is a risky combination when it comes to radon, since they are breathing this harmful gas at a quicker rate, giving it a greater effect on their growing lungs.
If a parent heard that their child was being exposed to harmful radiation at school, they would likely want to take action to protect their child. However, many people don’t react this way when hearing the word “radon”. This is likely due to lack of awareness of its dangers, and the fact that symptoms don’t appear immediately as they do with, say, nuclear radiation. Though the damage takes longer to present itself, radon is a hazardous carcinogen that can lead to lung cancer, the #1 cancer killer in the U.S.
According to the U.S. EPA, “A nationwide survey of radon levels in schools estimates that nearly one in five has at least one schoolroom with a short-term radon level above the action level of 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) – the level at which EPA recommends that schools take action to reduce the level.” While some states and counties have laws regarding radon in schools, most do not.
So what can YOU do to protect your kids and the kids in your community? Contact your state and county officials and ask about policies on radon in schools. If officials see that this is an issue taxpayers care about, they will be more likely to act. Every parent deserves to have peace of mind that their children are safe when they go to school, so make sure your local schools take radon seriously.