FOX43 Finds Out: Does your school test for radon?

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The Pennsylvania Department on Environmental Protection has been urging people in the commonwealth to test their homes for radon for years.

The magic number is 4, that's 4  pCi/L.

The EPA hopes you have less radon than that in your home.

"If you do some testing and you`re above 4, then you want to do some sort of follow up testing," said Robert Lewis, DEP's Program Manager for the Radon division.

Lewis has some other suggestions too.

"We would like to see radon testing occur during real estate transactions. We would like to see radon testing in schools."

Right now, schools in Pennsylvania are not required by law to test for Radon.

"We`re one of the worst states if not the worst state for radon in the entire country. So, if anybody should be doing it, we should surely be doing it. Or we`d like too," said Lewis.

Since there is no law requiring schools to test for the cancer-causing gas, some schools don't.

Lewis says, "Schools generally don`t have the high levels that homes see, they`re probably not going to be in the 50`s or hundreds or even higher than that. But they certainly still can have radon high enough it can be of concern."

Because there is still a concern, the DEP would like for schools to test every 5 years.

FOX43 Finds Out sent right to know requests to 9 central Pennsylvania school districts, selected at random, to see if they have tested for radon in the past 5 years.

Out of the 9 districts, only one has performed a test in the past 5 years and that happened in only one school in the Penn Manor School District.

Conestoga Elementary School in Lancaster County had radon testing in August of 2015, with the highest reading at 3.1 in the schools' conference room.

Two other districts did have radon tests done in the last 15 years.

Central York tested every school in its district in 2012.

After the first round of testing, both Central York High School and Stonybrook Elementary schools had readings over 4.

The schools were re-tested with the HVAC units pulling outside air in and both schools then had readings below the EPA guidelines.

Shippensburg Area School District had radon testing back in April of 2003.

A classroom and cafeteria office in Nancy Grayson Elementary School both had high readings.

Seven 7 in the classroom and 4.1 in the office.

The company that provided the radon testing recommended the school re-test those two areas in June of 2003.

The school district did not give us information as to if those re-tests ever happened.

All of the other school districts we reached out to, which include: Dover Area, Middletown Area, Cornwall-Lebanon, Greenwood, Conewago Valley and Carlisle Area said they have no records of radon tests.

A representative for Cornwall-Lebanon did say there was a test more than 10 years ago and that the results were extremely low and the buildings have been renovated since that time.

However, we did not see a physical record of those results.

Now remember, the school districts are NOT breaking any sort of law.

There is no requirement to test for radon - just a recommendation.

The DEP has push for legislation and so far nothing as been passed.

DEP officials also understand that radon tests can be costly.or schools.

"In a home you`ve got one tester kit for $20, in a school you`ve got how many classrooms? Potentially hundreds. Then if you find radon you have more problems and it can get more expensive. So you know it`s definitely a cost issue," said Lewis.

The EPA does recommend all schools be tested for radon and did state that it's up to the states to decide that though.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education says it implements laws passed by the state legislature.

A bill keeps being introduced, it just hasn't been passed.

At least one state does regulation radon testing in schools.

Back in 1991, Colorado schools were required to test for radon.

New and remodeled schools must be tested within 19 months.

Missouri also has tested all of the public schools, not because of a law but because of a grant.

It's the State Indoor Radon Grant.

It appears PA also has received that grant, at least the DEP office in Philadelphia has.

We reached out to the DEP to see what we're using that money for  and if it could be used to test schools.

We recieved this response: "

The EPA only allocates $400,000 per year in State Indoor Radon Grant (SIRG) funding for Pennsylvania to utilize over a three-year grant period.  This funding supports DEP’s extensive radon education public outreach. This includes our Newborn Program, which provides educational material and a coupon for a free radon test to parents of newborns while they’re still in the hospital; our DEP Radon Assistance Program, which provides test kits to people who’ve had radon mitigation systems installed and want an independent verification of reduced levels ; a statewide public service announcement and other educational outreach during National Radon Awareness Month in January; geology and radon research; educational exhibits at home shows; staff positions and continued training; and support of American Lung Association (ALA) radon programs.

These ALA programs include distribution of free radon test kits to townships that DEP knows to have a higher prevalence of radon; offering training/test kits to schools and builders in these townships; and an online program open to all Pennsylvanians, whereby they can simply fill out a form to get a free test kit (until supplies run out for the year).

The EPA’s allocation of SIRG funding isn’t enough to allow the department to conduct a sufficient school testing program."

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