Measure Would Require Schools To Test for Radon
WASHINGTON--Schools located in radon "hot spots'' would be required to test for the presence of the odorless, colorless gas in their buildings, under a bill adopted by the Senate last week.
The provision, which was included in an omnibus radon bill, would require all schools located in "priority radon areas,'' which would be designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, to test for radon by Jan. 1, 1996.
Schools would be required to make the results of these tests, which would have to be conducted according to a protocol to be determined by the E.P.A., available to parents, teachers, and the community.
They would not, however, be required to take any action to lower radon levels if test results show there is a higher-than-acceptable level of the gas in a building.
Schools that have already tested for radon according to previous E.P.A. guidelines would not be required to retest.
Health officials believe that exposure to radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing about 14,000 deaths each year.
Under the new bill, all radon testing at schools would have to be supervised by someone who has taken an E.P.A.-approved training course. Likewise, all mitigation work would have to be performed by individuals who have passed an agency-approved class.
The E.P.A. estimates that it costs about $1,000 to test an average school, and that mitigation costs average several thousand dollars per building.
The bill authorizes $5 million a year for three years for grants to schools to perform mitigation work.
None of the similar measures that have been introduced in the House have moved out of committee. Last year, a bill requiring testing passed the Senate but died in the House.
Under a measure adopted by the Congress in 1988, states were given grants to encourage radon testing in schools and other buildings, and the E.P.A. was required to conduct a national survey of radon in schools. The results of that survey are expected to be released later this spring.
A preliminary survey by the E.P.A. in 1989 found that 54 percent of the schools tested had at least one room with radon levels above its recommended "action level'' of 4 picocuries per liter of air.--E.F.