Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Radon - An air quality threat in schools

Schools should test for radon and other
air quality concerns, experts say.
National Radon Action Month may be over, but the invisible radon threat is a year-round problem.

The naturally occurring radioactive gas also does not care where or when it accumulates, so it may be present in homes, government buildings or schools at higher than acceptable levels.

Since one building can have high levels of radon while the one next to it doesn’t, experts recommend testing every home and building for radon. The best time for testing is the winter.

Radon enters buildings through cracks and fissures in the foundation or other opening in the building, and it can accumulate indoors.

The gas represents a health hazard when someone is exposed to high concentrations over a relatively long time (several decades). In fact, radon contributes to 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

In order to protect children from radon exposure in schools, some administrations are taking action.

The English Montreal School Board last year sent out a letter to the schools informing them of a new radon detection program instigated by the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS).

New Health Canada guidelines lowered the acceptable levels of radon in the ambient air. In schools where radon concentration exceeds 200 Becquerel’s per cubic meter, which represents the maximum “safe” concentration under the new guidelines, remedial measures have to be taken.

In January 2012, radon detectors were installed in schools, which will be removed in the spring to be analyzed in a laboratory.

According to a Radio-Canada report from Jan. 30, the ministry of education decided to test all of Quebec’s primary and high schools for radon.

It’s a preventive measure, officials say.

School boards are required to test all their buildings for radon. The deadline for completion is July 1, 2014.

Mitigation techniques include special venting systems that vent the radon outdoors and sealing the cracks and fissures in the building's foundation and exterior, among others.

Radon is not the only polluting factor in the school environment. To learn more about indoor air pollution in schools and possible solutions, contact Electrocorp today.

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