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Radon testing requirement for schools fails to pass Indiana legislature

State Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, filed House Bill 1395 which would have required public schools to test the lowest level of their buildings for radon
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Posted at 9:55 AM, Apr 28, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — An effort to protect your child’s lungs failed to pass the legislature this year.

State Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, filed House Bill 1395 which would have required public schools to test the lowest level of their buildings for radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from decaying uranium.

It can seep into schools, homes and other buildings from the surrounding soil and is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers — killing an estimated 600 people a year in Indiana and roughly 21,000 people a year throughout the U.S.

The bill was assigned to the Environmental Affairs committee, however, it failed to get a hearing this legislative session.

 "While I am disappointed my bill to require schools to test for cancer-causing radon gas did not receive a hearing this session, I will keep fighting for this legislation and the immense good it would do for students, teachers and school staff," said Rep. Mike Andrade.

Lawmakers have tried for several years to pass radon testing requirements for schools to no avail.

Kyle Hoylman, Protect Environmental CEO, released a statement expressing his concern with the bill failing.

“Exposure to invisible radon gas is responsible for claiming more than 21,000 lives each year in our country, yet testing for the cancer-causing gas in schools is not required. Children are more vulnerable to radon exposure because of the child's lung size and faster breathing rate, resulting in a higher estimated dose of radiation when compared to adults, according to the CDC. By Indiana law, school-age children are required to attend school for 180 days, which could be exposing them to a radioactive, cancer-causing gas during their time inside the school building. The only way to know the risk of exposure is to test for radon. It is unfortunate that lawmakers again failed to act to pass a bill that would require schools to test for radon, which leaves many of the youngest Hoosiers at risk. More needs to be done to protect our future generations. We appreciate Kara and the WRTV team for spotlighting this important public health issue.”

"We are in 2023 and this still hasn't been addressed," said Andrade, in an interview with WRTV.

WRTV Investigates has been tracking this issue for years.

PREVIOUS | Most schools not testing for radon despite new law

WRTV surveyed more than a dozen school districts in Central Indiana and found most have not tested for radon in the last decade, despite EPA recommendations to test at least every five years.

Indiana does not require schools to test.

WRTV Investigates found a dozen other states have already taken action regarding radon in schools — implementing laws or regulations that require or recommend testing.

RELATED | Health officials urge homeowners to test for radon

The Indiana Department of Health does not compile or track which schools have tested for radon.

IDOH is not keeping data on radon in schools.

“It's astonishing,” said Andrade. “We need to make it a priority, which I have.”

Andrade’s bill would have required schools to submit their radon test results to the Indiana Department of Health who would compile the information in a database and use the information “to reduce the health risks of radon.”

Because of WRTV Investigates’ reporting, a 2019 law requires the Indiana Department of Health to distribute indoor air quality manuals to schools with information about radon testing.

But WRTV found the radon testing language in the 2019 manual was confusing and buried in a paragraph about retesting.

After our story aired in June 2022, the state updated the indoor air quality manual, which now clearly states, “Radon testing in schools is highly recommended by the Indiana Department of Health."

The Indiana Department of Health tells WRTV the manual was updated in July and posted to the state’s website and also sent by email to the Indiana Department of Education’s list of school superintendents on July 15, 2022.

The EPA recommends schools take action to mitigate when the radon level hits 4 pCi/L or above.

The average indoor radon level in Marion County is 4.6 pCi/L – that is equal to more than 200 chest X-rays a year or smoking 9 cigarettes daily.

Any radon level poses some health risk and it is not possible to reduce radon to zero.

The Indiana State Teachers Association supported the legislation.

“ISTA supports required radon testing for schools, as student health and safety should be one of our top priorities,” read a statement. “We hope that the bill will get heard this session.”

PREVIOUS | Teachers push for change on radon