INDIANAPOLIS— A Call 6 investigation into radon in your child’s classroom has prompted another piece of legislation that would educate schools about testing for the cancer-causing gas.
Sen. Eric Bassler, R-Washington, filed Senate Bill 632 that would require the Indiana State Department of Health to distribute a best practices manual to schools for radon testing.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, killing an estimated 22,000 people every year.
Bassler’s bill would require ISDH to hand out radon testing information to the superintendent and facilities manager of each school corporation.
Charter and private schools would also receive the radon testing recommendations.
The federal EPA recommends schools test for radon at least once every five years, but Call 6 Investigates found 96 percent of Indiana schools haven’t tested in the last decade.
“The bill would hopefully, I believe, promote more awareness about radon among the local school corporations and give the information needed to check every five years, do they want to do it at all, every three years,” Bassler said.
Most people do not realize they’ve been exposed to radon until they’re diagnosed with lung cancer later in life.
Bassler said he is concerned about the health risk to students, as well as the teachers and staff.
“The teachers, the administrators would be the ones that would be in that school, year after year after year, exposed to possibly high levels of radon which has negative consequences,” Bassler said. “They may be there eight hours a day the rest of their lives.”
If passed into law, the Indiana State Department of Health would be required to revise and distribute the manual to each school every three years.
Bassler’s bill has been assigned to the Committee on Health and Provider Services, and is expected to get a hearing sometime in February.
Two other state lawmakers have filed separate bills aimed at testing schools for radon.
Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, has proposed 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.
Melton’s bill would also require licensed child care centers and child care ministries to be tested for radon gas by July 1, 2020.
The legislation leaves it up to the school superintendent and the Indiana State Department of Health to determine which buildings to test, which rooms to test, the method of testing, as well as who will be notified of the test results.
All school radon test results would be submitted to the Indiana State Department of Health who would compile the statewide data.
Melton’s bill also recognizes schools who may have already tested, and says if a school building was tested between June 2014 and July 2019, the next text must be performed within five years of the latest test.
Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, also filed legislation, House Bill 1292, that would require the Indiana State Department of Health to establish a program for testing and reducing radon gas in school buildings.
“We want to get this job done,” Hamilton said. “It’s really important schools test for radon, because it’s a carcinogen. There’s a lot of children's health issues we haven’t tackled in Indiana and this is one of them.”
Hamilton’s bill also pushes for Indiana to apply for federal funding through the EPA’s indoor radon grant program, which would help cover the cost of testing schools.
“Children are in school for many days of their life and their bodies are developing,” Hamilton said. “Carcinogens are particularly potent in those developing bodies, so we need to do what the EPA says we need to do for children's health and we need to take the opportunity and protect our children.”
Indiana currently has nothing in place regarding radon in the classroom.
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.
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