NYS schools not required to test for radon

NEW YORK (WHEC)-- You can't see, smell or taste it but radon can be deadly.

The EPA says prolonged exposure to the invisible gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

A News10NBC investigation discovered many of our local school districts don't test buildings for it despite being located in designated "high-radon" counties. 

The New York State Department of Health compiled maps showing the percentage of homes tested for radon that were found to have higher than acceptable levels. In the Town of Caledonia, Livingston County, 86 percent of the homes tested had greater than 4 pCi/l of indoor radon. 

Fifty-six percent of homes tested in Nunda were above that level as well as more than 50 percent of homes tested in the Town of Naples, Ontario County. 

South Bristol and Farmington were well above the acceptable levels.

Half the homes in the Town of Batavia, Stafford and LeRoy in Genesee County tested above the 4 pCi/I level as did half of the homes in the Town of Wheatland and Mendon in Monroe County. 

"I have a daughter who is a senior and she'll be going to the University of Tampa next August," says Dave Peck. His daughter is a student at Livonia High School.

Peck considers himself both a proud and protective dad. He checks his home for radon every few years and assumed the school district did the same.

"I thought maybe it was something that they just normally did because it is a problem at times," he says.

The EPA and the NYS Health Department both recommend that school districts test for radon every five years but it is not mandatory and the state does not provide funding to do it.

A News10NBC review of the most recent publicly available school safety reports found sporadic testing at best and most of it happened years ago.   

"In a school, because of the HVAC systems, because of the size of the buildings, because of the way the buildings are used, it can become extremely expensive to mitigate [any issues] at these schools," says George Schambach, president of the NYS Chapter of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists.

When asked whether he felt like districts take a "what we don't know, we don't have to pay for" mentality about testing, he responded with, "Yes, yes. The schools that we send our kids to and where our wives and husbands work aren't protected," Schambach adds.  

Matt Cole is the superintendent of Livonia Schools.  

He says safety is always on the top of his mind.

"I have kids in these buildings myself and so my expectation is that the air that they breathe and the water that they drink is safe. Yeah, there will always be budgeting pressures however, safety and security is the number one priority in spending," he tells News10NBC.

Cole and the Board of Education decided to do sporadic testing in certain rooms in certain school buildings over the years.

"While Livingston County as a whole, is a higher-rated area, Livonia itself, inside the county, is lower than the rest of the county and so, it is something we try to keep our eyes on but at the same time, we don't think we're in an overly high area to be overly concerned," he says.

All of the results that have come back do not indicate any problems that would need mitigation.  

The sporadic testing done in Livonia is a lot more than most districts do.

According to school safety reports, a majority of local districts don't do any radon testing or haven't in the last decade.

"Every parent should be going to their school superintendent saying, 'have you tested my son or my daughter's classroom, have you tested the cafeteria, have you tested the gymnasium, have you tested the auditorium,'" says Schambach.  

There is legislation, written by lawmakers in the Southern Tier where some of the highest levels of radon have been found, that would mandate all school districts in New York regularly test for radon but it's been stuck in committee for the past decade.  

News10NBC reached out to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office to see where he stands on the legislation.  

News10NBC also checked with a number of other states, some of them, like Florida, require schools to test for radon and report it to the state.  

Others, like New Jersey, require new schools to use radon-resistant building materials but most, like New York, lack any mandates at all for radon testing in schools.   

For more information on radon, click here and here.

For the Genesee County map, click here.

For the Livingston County map, click here.

For the Monroe County map, click here.

For the Ontario County map, click here. 

For the Seneca County map, click here. 

For the Wyoming County map, click here.

For the Wayne County man, click here. 

Source: https://www.whec.com/news/nys-schools-not-required-to-test-for-radon/5229904/

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