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Radon In Schools

March 31, 2015: Franklin County School District Radon Testing and Response

Virginia’s Office of Radiological Health (ORH) received radon test results from the Franklin County School District for tests that were conducted in its schools and administration buildings from November 2014 through January 2015. Twenty-four areas were confirmed among all the facilities tested in the county as having levels at or exceeding the EPA’s recommended Radon Action Level of 4.0 pCi/L. Two facilities were confirmed as having only a few rooms with slightly elevated readings that can likely be mitigated by adjusting the HVAC – the Stadium facility and Boones Mill Elementary School. However, at Benjamin Franklin Middle School East, 20 areas were confirmed as having levels at or above 4.0 pCi/L. The Code of Virginia requires schools to test for radon. Franklin County is designated by the EPA as a Moderate (Zone 2) radon risk area. Benjamin Franklin Middle School East was built in 1988 and services about 590 - 6th grade students. School personnel are adjusting the HVAC systems of the classrooms with elevated readings to increase ventilation by introducing more outside air. These classrooms will be retested to determine if this technique is successful. The School Superintendent plans to work with a certified radon mitigator who has experience installing large radon mitigation systems if additional remediation is necessary. ORH will continue to confer with the Local Health Director and School Superintendent to monitor retesting results and progress on mitigating the elevated radon levels, and provide additional assistance as requested. The School Superintendent’s Letter to Parents, including Frequently Asked Questions, is attached here: Franklin County Parent's Letter

Questions about this matter may be directed to the Office of Radiological Health’s Radon Program at (804) 864-8150 or (800) 468-0138.

NEW TRAINING: On September 25, 2014 a webinar was given to to public school employees regarding radon testing in schools. A copy of the power point presentation can be seen by clicking the following: School Testing Webinar Slides. The recorded webinar can be viewed on the VDH You Tube Channel by clicking the following link: 2014 Radon School Training.

The 1993 Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that requires all schools in the Commonwealth to be tested for radon after July 1, 1994, as well as any new school buildings.  Each school is required to maintain files of radon test results.  The full text of the law is provided at the bottom of this page.

In general radon test results for schools were below the EPA guidance of 4 pCi/L of radon in air.  Although there were several test results that indicated high radon levels, a review of the data and testing methodology indicates most of these test results were not valid for any of the following reasons: insufficient test period and improperly testing closed areas, such as boiler rooms and storage rooms.

For the few schools that did have elevated radon levels, the school's ventilation system was found not to be working properly, i.e. dirty filters, unbalanced air flow.  In these instances, radon levels were easily reduced after correcting the ventilation problem.

If you have any questions regarding radon levels in any particular school, contact that school's administration.

Note to School Administrators:

  • Radon test kits are available that may be placed and retrieved by school employees, then mailed to a laboratory for processing.
  • Test only the lowest classrooms that are in contact with the ground in every section of the building. Start by testing all classrooms that are built partially or completely below ground level. It is not necessary to test any classrooms that might be built on top of these subterranean rooms. Then test all other classrooms that are located on the ground floor whether they are built over a slab or a crawlspace. Do not test storerooms, utility rooms, closets, locker rooms or rest rooms.
  • Testing for radon is simple- contact VDH at (804) 864-8150 and ask our radon staff for assistance.

Code of Virginia Section § 22.1-138. Minimum standards for public school buildings

A. The Board of Education shall prescribe by regulation minimum standards for the erection of or addition to public school buildings governing instructional, operational, health and maintenance facilities where these are not specifically addressed in the Uniform Statewide Building Code. 

B. By July 1, 1994, every school building in operation in the Commonwealth shall be tested for radon pursuant to procedures established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for radon measurements in schools. 

School buildings and additions opened for operation after July 1, 1994, shall be tested for radon pursuant to such EPA procedures and regulations prescribed by the Board of Education pursuant to subsection A of this section. Each school shall maintain files of its radon test results and make such files available for review. The division superintendent shall report radon test results to the Department of Health. 
(1980, c. 559; 1993, c. 765.) 

Division of Radiological Health | James Madison Building, 7th Floor | 109 Governor Street,  Room 730 | Richmond, VA  23219 | Telephone (804) 864-8150 | Fax: (804) 864-8155

Last Updated: 09-03-2015

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