IAQ Tools for Schools
IAQ Reference Guide
Appendix G - Radon
EPA and other major national and international scientific organizations have concluded that radon is a human carcinogen and a serious public health risk. An individual’s risk of developing lung cancer from radon increases with the level of radon, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s smoking habits. EPA estimates that 7,000 to 30,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are attributed to radon.
Because many people spend much of their time at home, the home is likely to be the most significant source of radon exposure. For most school children and staff, the second largest contributor to their radon exposure is likely to be their school. As a result, EPA recommends that homes and school buildings be tested for radon.
Results from a National Survey of Radon Levels in Schools
A nationwide survey of radon levels in schools estimates that 19.3 percent of U.S. schools, nearly one in five, have at least one frequently occupied ground-contact room with short-term radon levels at or above the action level of 4 pCi/L (picocurie per Liter) -- the level at which EPA recommends mitigation. Approximately 73 percent of these schools will have only five or fewer schoolrooms with radon levels above the action level. The other 27 percent will have six or more such schoolrooms. If your building has a radon problem, it is unlikely that every room in your school will have an elevated radon level. However, testing all frequently occupied rooms that have contact with the ground is necessary to identify schoolrooms with elevated radon levels.
Guidance for Radon Testing
EPA’s document, Radon Measurement in Schools – Revised Edition (EPA 402-R-92-014), provides guidance on planning, implementing, and evaluating a radon testing program for a school - www.epa.gov/radon/pdfs/radon_measurement_in_schools.pdf.
To assist schools with testing, helpful aids, such as a checklist of the testing procedure, are included in the document. Before initiating radon testing in your school however, contact your state Radon Office (see Appendix L: "Resources") for information on any state requirements concerning radon testing or for a copy of the document. Check www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/pubs.html for documents on radon in schools.
To reduce the health risk associated with radon, EPA recommends that officials test every school for elevated radon levels. Because the entry and movement of radon in buildings is difficult to predict, officials should test all frequently occupied schoolrooms that are in contact with the ground. If testing identifies schoolrooms with radon levels of 4 pCi/L or greater, officials should reduce the radon levels using an appropriate mitigation strategy.
Guidance for Radon Mitigation
If you identify a radon problem in your school, EPA developed guidance on radon mitigation entitled Reducing Radon in Schools – A Team Approach (EPA 402-R-94-008) that describes the recommended approach to radon mitigation in schools and provides an overview of the mitigation process to the IAQ Coordinator.
Guidance for Radon Prevention in Renovations and New Buildings
EPA’s document entitled Radon Prevention in Design and Construction of Schools and Other Large Buildings (EPA 625R-92-016) provides guidance for incorporating radon resistant and/or easy-to-mitigate features into the design of a new school building including design recommendations for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. This guidance is useful to school personnel (e.g., school business officials) and architects involved with the new school construction, see www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/index.html#index5
Training for Testing and Mitigation
To develop public and private sector capabilities for radon testing and mitigation, EPA formed four Regional Radon Training Centers (see Appendix L: "Resources" See also www.epa.gov/radon/rrtcs.html). These training centers offer courses on testing and mitigation in school buildings designed to simulate hands-on activities by having participants solve practical problems. Contact your state Radon Office (see Appendix L: "Resources" See also www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html ) for information on local training opportunities or state training requirements.
Testing and Mitigation Costs
Cost for radon testing in a typical school building ranges from $500 to $1,500. Costs for testing depend on the type of measurement device used, the size of the school, and whether testing is performed in-house using school personnel or a measurement contractor.
If a radon problem is identified, the cost for radon mitigation typically ranges from $3,000 to $30,000 per school. The cost of mitigating a school depends on the mitigation strategy, the school building design, the radon concentration in the school room(s), and the number of school rooms affected. The appropriate mitigation strategy will consider the school building design and initial levels of radon. Mitigation costs at the high end of the cost range are often associated with a mitigation strategy involving the renovation of school HVAC systems. Although the cost is higher, this strategy has the added benefit of improving ventilation within a school building, which contributes to the overall improvement of IAQ.