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.)
History of Radon Testing for Virginia Schools
As seen in the passage above, in 1993 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that requires all schools in the Commonwealth to be tested for radon after July 1, 1994 and also any new school buildings or additions built after that date. Each school is required to maintain files of their radon test results.
In the early 1990’s the Virginia Dept. of Education (VDOE) purchased long-term radon test kits that were used to test all Virginia public school K-12 classrooms that were in contact with the ground at that time. Long term tests are generally more accurate than short term tests because they sample anywhere from 90-365 days. Short term tests usually sample for only 2-7 days. Since radon levels can fluctuate, the longer the test duration, the more accurate it will be. The EPA school testing protocol recommends testing during the heating season which runs roughly from late October through the end of March. In 2009, a VDH review of the original testing data from the long term tests done at that time indicated that some of these test results were not valid or usable due to:
- School classrooms not being identified on the test report;
- Testing periods that were outside of the preferred heating season; and
- Improper testing of unoccupied areas such as boiler and storage rooms
- Some of the testing data had been lost or misplaced.
Since 2009 VDH has cooperated with VDOE in multiple efforts to assist public school systems with their required radon testing. As of 2021, the overall radon testing compliance rate among Virginia schools is greater than 90%. In general, radon test results for the vast majority of school classrooms in Virginia are below the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L. For the few classrooms that have shown elevated radon levels, the problem was usually solved by making adjustments to the school’s HVAC system. However, in some cases the HVAC adjustments were not successful and a radon mitigation system was installed to reduce the radon to acceptable levels. Newer schools with state of the art HVAC and ventilation systems rarely show radon problems.
Questions regarding radon levels in any particular school should be directed to that school’s administration office.
Information about Radon Testing for School Administrators
Radon testing for ground contact classrooms in new schools or additions should be tested for radon. This testing can be conducted by either certified radon testing professionals or uncertified school personnel who have been adequately trained. Lists of radon testers and mitigators who are currently certified as required by the Code of Virginia may be found at either www.nrsb.org or www.nrpp.info. School personnel interested in testing should view the training video available here: 2014 Radon School Training. NOTE: You can no longer access this video using Internet Explorer. Using other browsers should work fine. A copy of the power point slides for this presentation can be accessed by clicking this link: School Testing Webinar Slides.
Bulk quantities of approved radon test kits may be purchased from several different vendors. These are then placed and retrieved by a qualified tester and then mailed to a laboratory for analysis.
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. Then test all other classrooms that are located on the ground floor whether they are built over a slab or a crawlspace. It is not necessary to test any classrooms that are built on top of the lowest rooms. Do not test storerooms, utility rooms, closets, locker rooms or rest rooms.
Please contact the VDH Radon Coordinator at (804) 864-8150 for further assistance.
Office of Radiological Health | 109 Governor Street, 7th Floor | Richmond, VA 23219
Telephone (804) 864-8150 | Fax: (804) 864-8155