School officials wishing to test their buildings for either lead or radon can get copies of the new federal testing guidelines from regional offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or from their state radiation-control and drinking-water offices.
The EPA has made the following recommendations for radon testing:
All below-ground and ground-level rooms that are frequently used should be tested.
Testing should be conducted during the coolest months of the year.
Tests to confirm results should be conducted before proceeding with mitigation activity.
If second tests confirm readings above 20 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), officials should take action within several weeks; schools with readings below 20 pCi/L but above 4 pCi/L should take action within several months.
Schools with readings greater than 100 pCi/L should consider immediate action, including relocating children and staff until levels can be reduced.
Schools should only use equipment from companies that are state certified or have been approved by the EPA
Agency officials estimate that it will cost about $10 to test each classroom, and between $500 and $10,000 to lower high radon levels.
The agency advises those attempting to test school drinking water for lead to contact their local water utility or state water dEPArtment for aid. These agencies will either conduct the testing or refer school officials to state-certified laboratories using agency-approved procedures.
Further recommendations from the EPA include the following:
The only way to know if a water cooler contains lead is to test it.
The agency’s list of water coolers that contain lead or have lead-lined tanks is not complete. Unlisted units may contain lead, and not every unit of every model listed contains lead.
Samples should be collected before school opens and before any water is used.
All water fountains or outlets with lead levels exceeding 20 parts per billion should be immediately taken out of service.
The agency estimates that it will cost between $7 and $30 to analyze each water sample. School officials can call the EPA’s drinking-water hotline, 800-426-4791, for more information.--ef
A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 1989 edition of Education Week as Guidance for Schools on Lead and Radon Testing