Survey Finds Strong Support for Radon Testing in Schools among Vermont Parents
Survey conducted by American Lung Association, The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at UVM, and UVM Medical Center; January is Radon Action Month
(January 17, 2018) -
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The American Lung Association alongside the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at UVM, and UVM Medical Center released the results of a survey they conducted on radon awareness, with a special focus on radon in school buildings today, in light of Radon Action Month. The 29-question survey was targeted to parents of K-12 students and found 91 percent of participants believe their children’s schools should take action to address elevated radon levels and 87 percent would support mandated mitigation.
Rebecca Ryan, Senior Director of Health Education and Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Vermont said, “Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancers after smoking. Testing for radon in schools is a common sense and cost effective measure we can take today to protect our kids, our teachers and school personell from this dangerous gas.”
Dr. David Kaminsky, faculty mentor and pulmonary and critical care physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center and a professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM, said, “This project really made us appreciate how important an issue radon is in the school system. In particular, we documented that parents are not well informed about the issue, and would support legislation to mandate radon testing and mitigation in the schools”.
The survey identified two major knowledge gaps of Vermont parents: radon as a cause of lung cancer and the status of radon testing in schools. Only 8% of participants were confident that their child’s school had informed them about radon levels. 82 percent of Vermont parents selected “agree” or “somewhat agree” that their children’s schools should be tested for radon and 83 percent selected “agree” or “somewhat agree” that they would support laws requiring radon testing and disclosure.
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas. It is released from the Earth’s crust and enters homes, schools and workplaces through cracks in the foundation, walls, floors, and other openings. When radon is trapped indoors, it has the ability to build up to dangerous levels and become a health risk. As radon gas decays, it emits radioactive particles that can be inhaled into the lungs and attack the body’s cells with cancer-causing radiation. According to the EPA, Radon causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer-related deaths per year.
Vermont’s Department of Health currently provides free radon testing to schools, yet only 74 out of 297 total schools in the state have been tested as of 2017, and almost 15% of these schools had levels of radon that were above the EPA’s recommended action level. Of the schools with radon levels above the EPA standard, 36% have not mitigated the high radon levels.
The cost to mitigate elevated radon in schools varies from $4,000 to $75,000 depending on the severity of the problem and the building structure . For comparison, the cost of a school bus is $87,000, and the cost of treatment for lung cancer is over $92,000/patient/year.
Overall, results of the survey support the need for schools to disclose radon testing status to parents in order to create safe environments in Vermont schools. Senator Virginia “Ginny” Lyons has introduced a bill this year to require radon testing and disclosure in K-12 schools. “One of my legislative goals is to pass policies that are understood by community members and build prevention. This study helps achieve that goal. It demonstrates local support for legislation that will improve Vermont schools and health outcomes for kids.”
Interviews and additional information and graphics are available by request.
The survey was conducted in October and November 2017 and final results were analyzed from 126 completed questionnaires. It was distributed via medical clinics in the UVM Health Network, at local markets and online through social media platforms.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.