Jefferson Elementary School’s basement appears to have tested positive for radon levels that are almost triple the level at which action is recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the state of Minnesota, radon levels are not regulated. According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), there is no safe level of radon. The risk for lung cancer increases based on the duration of exposure as well as the level of radon in the air. The MDH recommends taking steps to lower annual radon amounts of 4.0 PicoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. It should be noted that even if the levels are relatively low, there is some risk for sensitive occupants, including children, of contracting lung cancer, according to the MDH.
Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Building and Grounds Director Bill O’Laughlin explained that a couple of readings at Jefferson Elementary were high and warranted a short term follow up test. The unoccupied basement, which he said is not accessible to others did have a radon level of 11.2. The first floor was tested a second time to ensure there was no health hazard to the above occupants; the highest level was 2.2. O’Laughlin also noted that plans are in place to ventilate the basement to remove any health risk posed to Jefferson occupants.
At the Thursday, July 11, WAPS board meeting, the School Board will discuss its state-mandated health and safety review. All health and safety plans for the district are 100 percent complete, aside from integrated pest management, which is currently at 83 percent completion.
Based on the results of the WAPS radon testing throughout 2012-2013, further testing, both short- and long-term, is recommended in some areas of the schools.
For more information on radon visit www.health.mn.gov/radonkit.