Monday, January 02, 2012

Deadly Elevated Levels of Cancer-causing Radon in Metro's Schools

(For some reason this video clip is not showing on this page. To see video, click on the title of this post and it will open in a new window and show the video.)

Twenty-three years after I successfully got a bill passed in the Metro Council requiring Metro Schools to test all schools for radon, the schools have been tested. Seventy-eight of Metro's 144 schools have level above what the EPA deems a safe level. Seven of the schools have a level 5 times the acceptable level!

Radon is a colorless orderless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The middle Tennessee area has more radon than most places in the nation due to the particular type of limestone shale in this area. In 1989 the EPA did some testing on Metro building including some schools and found elevated levels of radon. At that time, there was not a uniform standard for what was an acceptable level. The EPA had one estimate of an acceptable level and other agencies of government had other standards. However, it was know to be deadly and it was know that developing children were most at risk.

I thought it important that Metro provide a safe environment for children in their care and was alarmed that Metro was not testing all schools and did not have a program of radon testing and mitigation. Radon levels can often be brought down to acceptable levels with minor repairs. In some cases the mitigation may only require sealing of cracks in a slab floor or installing ventilation fans in crawl spaces. I introduced legislation to require testing and mitigation.  It took months of lobbying and educating my fellow councilmen but eventually the council passed the bill and the mayor signed it into law. The primary objection to radon testing was the cost. In order to get the legislation pasted, I had to put off the effective date of the legislation until the start of the next budget year. By that time however I was no longer serving in the Council and was not around to follow up on the status of the radon testing but I had no reason to believe the law would not be followed. It was not.

Periodically a routine ordinance that readopts the Metropolitan Code is passed by the council. Not every bill adopted by the Council becomes part of the code. Street name changes, for instance, do not get added to the code.  The routine readopting of the code can be used to bury ordinances legally adopted by the Council and signed by the Mayor that someone wishes had never passed.  I do not believe that it is just an accident that radon testing was left out of the readopting of the code. There is not a mechanism to insure that everything adopted into law that should be in the code gets in the code. There needs to be such a  procedure. I wish some councilman would take on this project.  

If you are an adult who has never smoked and was a student in Metro Schools and you have lung cancer, you may have a very good law suit to bring against Metro.  I would be like to hear from you if that is the case.

Parents and citizens who believe the city has an obligation to provide a safe environment for children in their care need to become watchdogs and insure that the laws is followed from here on out. Watch this Channel Five news clip and you will see that Metro Schools are still refusing to be open about the status of radon testing. A council member needs to take this on as his or her project and make Metro Schools stop stonewalling and make sure they follow the law.

If you wish to see radon levels at your school, visit the Metro webpage where all the test results are posted. To read more about how the Radon testing program was sabotaged and learn more about this issue, click here and scroll down to see all stories.

Thanks to the investigative reporting of Ben Hall and Channel Five news for discovering that there was an ignored radon law on the books and for forcing Metro to follow that old law. Some child will not grow up to have lung cancer due to the effort of Ben Hall and Channel Five. (link)

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1 comment:

  1. not too many people know radon is the #2 cause for lung cancer, every home and school should be tested for radon, even staying in a home/school/office for a week with high levels of radon gas can cause long term damage to your lungs!

    radon mitigation milwaukee