INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers from across the state are taking action in direct response to a Call 6 Investigation into radon in your child’s classroom.
Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney found 96 percent of public schools in Indiana have not tested for the cancer-causing gas in the last decade, despite EPA guidance that recommends schools test at least every five years.
“I’m a mother and a legislator and I’m concerned,” Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, who has served on the House environmental affairs committee, said. “Our kids are being exposed to this in Indiana, so I believe the state has a responsibility to help districts help and when necessary remediate this concern.”
Radon comes up through the soil and gets trapped in buildings, which can damage your child’s lungs. You can’t see or smell radon, the only way to know if it’s there is to test for it.
Three lawmakers from different political parties and different parts of Indiana are responding to our investigation and are planning their next steps of action.
"I wasn't familiar with this issue until I saw your story,” Hamilton said. “So I appreciate you bringing this issue to light so we can address it now in Indiana."
Hamilton’s district includes MSD of Lawrence Township, a school district that told RTV6 they haven’t tested for radon in more than 12 years.
“I think the state needs to step up and help schools with testing,” Hamilton said. “We put a lot of unfunded mandates on our schools and to add this without resources would be a problem. So, I want us to be able to help schools so they can create the healthiest environment for students possible.”
Two senators on the education committee are also concerned about Indiana’s lack of radon requirements — Sen. Eric Bassler, R-Washington, and Sen. Eddie Melton, D- Gary.
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 has nothing in place regarding radon in the classroom.
“It was alarming,” Melton said. “Only 4 percent of schools are reporting this information. So yes, it was definitely concerning."
“One of the prime purposes of government is to protect those who can't protect themselves,” Bassler said. “Obviously this has a big impact on children."
Call 6 Investigates also found the Indiana State Department of Health does not keep a list of schools that have tested for radon.
“It's time for Indiana to look at that issue very critically and figure out what we're doing as well," Hamilton said.
Lawmakers are now working to gather input from school leaders regarding radon.
"Superintendents, principals, school boards, have a lot on their plate,” Bassler said. “Maybe this doesn't rise to the level of being on their to-do list. Maybe if we try promoting awareness or requiring periodic testing, it will get it on their to-do list. "
Lawmakers said if Indiana requires radon testing, the state needs to find funding for schools to do it. So, they’re now working on how much it might cost and how Indiana would pay for it.
Melton said the state needs to find a way to improve.
"I don't think it's a hard sell when you're talking about the safety of children," he said.
Lawmakers will likely have support from several groups concerned about radon including the Indiana State Teachers Association and the American Lung Association.
Call 6 Investigates plans to follow the issue throughout the upcoming legislative session.
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