Radon levels hover near EPA target at Upper Blue Elementary school
BRECKENRIDGE – Recent radon tests at Upper Blue Elementary School indicate that student and staff exposure to the carcinogenic gas is at or near U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.During the school district’s winter break, most classroom areas registered radon levels close to four picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) of air – above which the EPA recommends mitigation action. The levels were well below the “immediate action response level” of 100 pCi/L.”There has been some serious concern from staff and parents, but the only recent news for us is that the levels over Christmas were extremely low,” said Summit School District spokeswoman Karen Mason.Radon is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the ground. The EPA estimates one in every 15 homes in the U.S. has a radon level at or above the recommended action level of four pCi/L.Lung cancer is a known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air. According to the EPA, the gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., with about 20,000 deaths each year related to exposure. Summit School District officials said that Upper Blue’s radon situation has not caused any health problems in staff or students.The school district began taking radon readings in December 1998, and started mitigation efforts shortly after upon discovery of high radon levels. The school opened in Nov. 1996.Twenty-two fans have been installed to keep the gas out of the building, and maintenance staff have made adjustments to the heating and ventilation system to further tackle the problem. The school’s ventilation system runs continuously, even at night and during weekends.”Most of the areas now have reached below four (pCi/L), but one area in one of the exterior mechanical rooms is a little high by my standards,” said district facilities director Kerry Barth. “My hope is that we’ll achieve even lower readings once we do repairs this summer. People are probably not aware that the levels in their houses are extremely high compared to what we have, but my focus is in getting the levels down below the EPA standard.”Barth plans to work with Ace Radon this summer, when school is not in session, to seal off an expansion joint that surrounds the interior of the school.Barth is now in the process of compiling the school’s historical data on radon levels for review by staff and parents. The information will be available next week in the school’s office.The school district will hold a radon information meeting at the school on the evening of March 1. At the meeting, district staff will distribute 200 free, disposable radon home-testing kits for parents.For more information about radon, or to receive a radon test kit, visit http://www.epa.gov/radon or call 1-800-SOS-radon.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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