Classrooms in Washington’s fifth largest school district are undergoing tests for radon.
Evergreen Public Schools recently announced above average levels in two Vancouver-area facilities, a classroom at Marrion Elementary School and the gymnasium at Sifton Elementary School.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers radon levels above 4 picocuries per liter of air unsafe and potentially dangerous. School officials were alarmed to find the gymnasium at Sifton was registering levels of 11.1 picocuries per liter of air.
“We know that Clark County is considered a hot spot,” said Gail Spolor, director of communications for Evergreen Public Schools. “It’s because of the geology of the region close to the Columbia River.”
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that releases from soil containing granite rock. Exposure to the toxic gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
“We informed parents, staff, and family,” Spolor said, adding it was important for parents to also test for radon at home. “We sent out letters, electronic communication in multiple languages the following day, right after we found out the results.”
The two schools are currently undergoing mitigation efforts, such as making sure vents are open and increasing air circulation.
Radon testing in the state of Washington is not required by law and is done on a voluntary basis. The last time local schools were tested in this area was in 2009.
The school district will continue testing 11 additional schools over the next several weeks.