In Vermont, we work hard to protect our kids from anything that may cause them harm. This is doubly true in school buildings, where we vet the people going in and out, monitor things like allergens and medications, and take careful notice of how we maintain facilities. Unfortunately, there is a missing link in school safety, and that is in the air our kids breathe daily.
High levels of radon have been found in schools across the country – including some in Vermont. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is odorless, tasteless, clear, and creeps in through the foundation, silently accumulating in buildings and homes. Long term exposure to radon can be harmful and even deadly.
While Vermont’s Department of Health offers free radon testing to public schools, only 74 of nearly 300 schools have taken advantage of this program since 2005. Of the schools that were tested, 15% had had screening results classified as dangerous enough to recommend radon mitigation. These tests, which effectively measure a dangerous toxin, should be mandatory in every school building, and results should be disclosed to the teachers, parents and community members – whose lives may be changed because of it.
Thankfully, Senator Ginny Lyons is introducing a bill requiring schools to do just that. This is a vitally important bill for all teachers, parents and families in Vermont that rely on schools to educate and protect our children. All Vermonters should urge their representatives to support this legislation and prioritize the health of our children and the air they breathe.
Senior Director, Health Education and Public Policy
American Lung Association in Vermont