LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — Home buyers have the option to test for radon; many do, and many don’t.
Schools also have that option, but most across our area, in both Kentucky and Indiana, are failing to take that test.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency recommends all buildings be tested for radon at least once every two years, we found that most school districts have never tested, and the ones which have did so decades ago.
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Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. It’s a double-whammy for smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke.
“Whether you’re a smoker or live with a smoker or work with a smoker and you’re exposed to radon, you’re ten times more likely to get lung cancer,” Dr. Ellen Hahn, head of the BREATHE research team at the University of Kentucky, pointed out.
We have broken down and summarized information specific to each area, posted data we collected from open records request and provided additional information.
Radon is a byproduct of uranium. So, it’s radioactive.
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“It’s radiation that people are breathing,” Dr. Hahn said. “Really, everyone should be testing, schools should be testing.”
However, in both Kentucky and Indiana, school districts are not required to test, even though state geologists say the potential for high radon exposure is widespread in both states.
“Our most populated cities are actually in high radon areas,” Bethany Overfield of the Kentucky Geological Survey said. “The populated places like Louisville and Lexington and say Bowling Green have a higher potential.”
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Per our Open Records Request, Kentucky’s largest school district, Jefferson County Public Schools, first tested for radon in 1989 and by 1993 retested in about 40% of its schools and facilities where levels were high.
The district installed nine mitigation systems, but haven’t retested for radon levels this decade.
From Southern Indiana, we initially received no data because no schools had tested.
“Mother Nature doesn’t differentiate between Mrs. Jones on 1, 2, 3 A, B Street and Mrs. Jones’ classroom down the road from that,” Kyle Hoylman said.
Hoylman is managing partner of Louisville-based Protect Environmental, a leading company nationally known for radon mitigation installation.
Hoylman’s father, a farmer and non-smoker died of lung cancer, while Hoylman is a testicular cancer survivor.
“I grew up in a house that tested at 30 picocuries.”
Any level at four picocuries per liter of air or above is considered dangerous.
When asked what’s the highest level his company has ever recorded, Hoylman said “1750 picocuries,” at a home near the zoo with a history of lung cancer.
In Hoylman’s mind, schools which are not testing are playing radon roulette.
“If you’re working in a school or you’re learning in a school, that [testing] should be required.”
**App users, click on the link above to use the map**
FREE KIT: The Jefferson County Health Department has 600 radon kits to give away. You can call 502-574-6650 or request a test online.
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Investigative Researcher, Andrea Ash can be reached at 502-582-7297 and firstname.lastname@example.org.