INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana will soon have a new law in place to better protect your children and their lungs, as well as teachers and school staff.
Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 632 Wednesday, which requires the Indiana State Department of Health to educate schools about how to test for radon.
The new law takes effect on July 1.
Prompted by a Call 6 Investigation that found 96 percent of schools haven’t tested for the cancer-causing gas in the last decade, Sen. Eric Bassler, R-Washington, filed Senate Bill 632 in January.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and because you can’t see or smell it, the only way to know if it’s there is to test for it.
Supporters of the legislation expressed their gratitude for the Governor signing the bill into law.
“We would like to thank Senator Bassler for starting this important conversation,” said Dawn Coffee, a radon testing advocate with Your Environmental Services. “It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that our schools are safe. It is our hope that our school corporations take these best practices to heart to protect the occupants of our school buildings from the potential for exposure to dangerous concentrations of radon.
The radon education bill received unanimous support from the House and Senate.
"While working hard to educate to test every home for radon, our children spend 6-9 hours of their every day in school,” said Julie Meeks, an advocate with Women Against Radon. “This bill will not only help protect our children during their 12+ years in school but also our teachers! This is excellent progress for Indiana."
The new law requires the Indiana State Department of Health to distribute recommendations for radon testing to school corporations and their superintendents.
Until now, Indiana had no laws in place related to radon in the classroom.
“The American Lung Association urges all Indiana schools to test for this invisible, radioactive gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer,” said Nick Torres, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Indiana. “But testing in schools is only one step. We hope that parents and teachers will also test their homes for radon and that schools and homes with high radon levels will have the repairs necessary to keep children, teachers and their families safe from this dangerous gas.”
The federal EPA recommends schools test at least once every five years, but Call 6 Investigates found most schools aren’t following that guideline.
Currently, the state provides guidance on indoor air quality, but not radon.
The Indiana State Department of Health does not compile or track which schools have tested for radon, but advocates hope the new law will prompt ISDH to start keeping data.
Call 6 Investigates had to conduct its own analysis to determine most schools haven’t tested for the cancer-causing gas.
This EPA map shows much of Central Indiana is in a hot zone for radon, meaning the gas is widespread throughout the soil and buildings in our state.
Call 6 Investigates found a dozen other states have already taken action regarding radon in schools — implementing laws or regulations that require or recommend testing.
New Jersey requires new schools use radon-resistant materials and techniques. In Florida, schools test for radon and report their results to the state department of health. Illinois has an education law that recommends schools test for radon.
Indiana Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, filed Senate Bill 522, which would require public and nonpublic schools to test for radon by July 2020 and at least once every five years after that.
However, Melton’s bill failed to get a hearing this session.