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CALL 6: Most Indiana schools ignore federal radon testing recommendations because it's not required

Radon gas is leading cause of lung cancer
Posted: 7:07 PM, Oct 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-23 17:34:55Z
Most Indiana schools don't test for radon gas
Most Indiana schools don't test for radon gas

INDIANAPOLIS—Call 6 Investigates has uncovered that most Indiana schools do not test for radon gas, a carcinogen known to cause lung cancer, despite federal recommendations that all schools test at least once every five years.

Radon is a radioactive, naturally occurring gas that seeps into buildings from the surrounding soil.

It’s the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, killing an estimated 600 people a year in Indiana and roughly 20,000 people across the country.

Central Indiana students and teachers spend a lot of their time in schools, and that’s why the EPA recommends schools test for radon but Call 6 Investigates found most school districts aren’t doing it.

A RADON SURVIVOR: “IT’S LIKE A DIRTY BOMB”

Annie Cacciato is a wife, a mother, and a survivor.

“I have stage four lung cancer,” said Cacciato.

Diagnosed in 2013, Cacciato had never smoked.

Although there’s no way to prove what caused her lung cancer, radon is the prime suspect.

Following her diagnosis, Cacciato learned her workplace and high school contained toxic levels of radon.

“I was in shock,” said Cacciato.

EPA’s nationwide survey of radon levels in schools estimates that nearly one in five has at least one schoolroom with a radon level above the action level of 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) - the level at which EPA recommends that schools take action to reduce the level.

Cacciato said her workplace tested at 25 pCi/L and her school tested at 24 pCi/L and “There are thousands of children in schools right now breathing in air, day after day, that is damaging their lungs,” said Cacciato.  “It’s a like dirty bomb in the building.”

Cacciato has been fighting for her life for five years and wants to prevent others from going through lung cancer.

“I look healthy, but my lungs are filled with cancer,” said Cacciato. “With radon, it just seems to be this very elusive problem that people are very indifferent to, they don’t understand they don’t educate, and they don’t believe it.  You wouldn’t just let a fire go off in your house and leave it burning forever.”

INDIANA SCHOOLS NOT TESTING DESPITE EPA RECOMMENDATION

Radon is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and the only way to know if it’s there is to test for it.

The EPA recommends schools test at least once every five years.

Call 6 Investigates surveyed dozens of schools and analyzed Indiana State Department of Health data and found of the state’s 289 public school corporations only 4% have tested for radon in the last decade.

“Let’s just call it out for what it is—it’s negligence,” said Cacciato.

RTV6 found large districts with thousands of students like Wayne Township, Carmel Clay, Perry Township, Mt. Vernon, Lawrence Township and Westfield haven’t tested for radon in the last ten years.

Some districts pointed out Indiana does not require schools or daycares to test for radon.

A dozen states have laws or regulations in place that require or encourage radon testing in schools including Illinois, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

DISTRICT SHOWS HIGH RESULTS, BUT ACTION REMAINS UNCLEAR

Call 6 Investigates uncovered the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation found dangerous of levels of radon in 2013, and it’s unclear, what if anything they did about it.

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

Bartholomew Consolidated schools had not one, but seven schools test above that.

Call 6 Investigates did not get answers from the school board or the superintendent via email, so we showed up to a public school board meeting.

Call 6:  Can you tell us if there was any mitigation or not?

Dr. Jim Roberts:   There was a test done in 2013. You made us aware of the information. We’re following up and gathering information.

Call 6:  Have you been able to determine if any parents were notified?

Dr. Jim Roberts: I was not superintendent at that point. We’re looking at information. I appreciate you sharing that information with us.

Call 6: Is there a public health concern to the kids in those buildings?

Dr. Jim Roberts: That’s… again. We are looking for information.

Call 6: You have schools that tested at 11, 13. Are those numbers concerning to you?

Dr. Jim Roberts: I guess that would be, based on interpretation of those numbers and understanding completely what that means to get a reading.

Call 6: Would you consider this an urgent issue?

Dr. Jim Roberts: Anything that deals with the safety of our children is an urgent issue.

Shortly after Call 6 spoke with Dr. Roberts, he announced at the public board meeting:

“Radon is not a required test in Indiana, and it’s something the school corporation chose to do. We have received some readings on those.”

Stephanie Studley, a mother of a kindergartner at Parkside Elementary, became concerned after hearing Roberts announcement.

Call 6 Investigates shared with Studley the test results showing a 7.1 pCi/L radon level in 2013 at Parkside Elementary.

“That is concerning,” said Studley. “When it comes to school safety or security, parents just need to keep putting pressure on the board and including Dr. Roberts. I think things need to be communicated, just like in Flint Michigan when there’s lead in the water and the children had been exposed and suffered horrendous health complications because of it.”

EXPERT WEIGHS IN ON RADON TESTING

Kyle Hoylman, managing partner of Protect Environmental, does radon testing for schools, daycares and other buildings in Indiana.

“Some schools don’t test because they don’t want to know the results,” said Hoylman. “How are they going to fix it?”

Hoylman said fixing a radon problem can be as simple as adjusting your HVAC system.

A test can cost a school a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

“School testing is important especially with the lungs developing when they’re in school,” said Hoylman. “At the end of the day, radon causes lung cancer. It’s a lot more economical to pay for radon testing in schools than to foot the bill later for lung cancer.”

Hoylman emphasized radon is prevalent throughout the entire state of Indiana.

“The only way to know if you have a problem, is to have your building tested,” said Hoylman.

Call 6 Investigates shared our results with Hoylman that only 4% of schools have tested for radon in the last decade.

“Its disappointing schools wouldn’t be taking steps to make an environment healthy and safe, even though it’s not required,” said Hoylman.  “Personally, I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I had the power to test a school or fix a school and did nothing about it. These are children.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Annie Cacciato doesn’t know what her future holds, but she’s one of the few to make it five years past her diagnosis.

Cacciato advocates for schools to test for radon and started crying as she pleaded for parents to do something.

“You can prevent this for your family, and that’s why I’m here to talk about it,” said Cacciato. “It’s preventable. This problem should have been fixed.”

Here’s what you can do to protect your family against radon-induced lung cancer:

  • Contact your school board and superintendent and ask for their most recent radon test results
  • If your school doesn’t have any test results, ask them to do a radon test
  • Do a radon test on your home using an at-home kit or hire a company
  • Remember radon can impact newer buildings as well—they’re so airtight they trap the gas
  • Ask your workplace or employer to do a radon test
  • Contact Indiana state representatives and senators and ask them to consider legislation requiring schools to test for radon
  • Call the American Lung Association radon hotline at 1-800-272-9723
  • Learn more about radon on the EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/radon

Below is a list of schools that tested for radon and submitted their results to the Indiana State Department of Health. 

Year Corporation IDOE School ID School Tested Address City County Zip Code Test Type Location Tested
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0363 W D Richards Elementary School 3311 FAIRLAWN DR Columbus Bartholomew 47203 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0371 L F Smith Elementary 4505 WAYCROSS DR Columbus Bartholomew 47203 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0369 Lillian Schmitt Elementary School 2675 CALIFORNIA ST Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0392 Southside Elementary School 1320 W 200 SOUTH Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0357 Parkside Elementary School 1400 PARKSIDE DR Columbus Bartholomew 47203 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0346 CSA Lincoln Campus 750 5TH ST Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0395 Northside Middle School 1400 E 27TH ST Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term B - Basement
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0375 CSA Fodrea Campus 2775 ILLINOIS AVE Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0366 Rockcreek Elementary School 13000 E 200 SOUTH Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0353 Mount Health Elementary School 12150 S STATE RD 58 Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0377 Taylorsville Elementary School 9711 WALNUT ST Taylorsville Bartholomew 47280 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0399 Columbus East High School 230 S MARR RD Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0354 Richard L Johnson Early Educ Cntr 1209 SYCAMORE ST Columbus Bartholomew 47201 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2013 Bartholomew Con School Corp 0328 Clifty Creek Elementary School 4625 E 50 NORTH Columbus Bartholomew 47203 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3440 North Grove Elementary 3820 W FAIRVIEW RD Greenwood Johnson 46142 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3437 Center Grove High School 2717 S MORGANTOWN RD Greenwood Johnson 46143 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3444 Pleasant Grove Elementary School 5199 W FAIRVIEW RD Greenwood Johnson 46142 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3443 Center Grove Middle School North 202 N MORGANTOWN RD Greenwood Johnson 46142 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3441 Center Grove Middle School Central 4900 W STONES CROSSING RD Greenwood Johnson 46143 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3435 Center Grove Elementary School 2455 S MORGANTOWN RD Greenwood Johnson 46143 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3439 Maple Grove Elementary School 3623 W WHITELAND RD Bargersville Johnson 46106 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Center Grove Community School Corp 3434 Sugar Grove Elementary School 4135 W SMITH VALLEY RD Greenwood Johnson 46142 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2015 East Allen County Schools 0310 Southwick Elementary School 6500 WAYNE TRACE Fort Wayne Allen 46816 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2011 Fort Wayne Community Schools 0134 Weisser Park Elementary School 902 COLERICK ST Fort Wayne Allen 46806 A - Short Term B - Basement
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3413 Needham Elementary School 1399 UPPER SHELBYVILLE RD Franklin Johnson 46131 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3461 Northwood Elementary School 965 GRIZZLY CUB DR Franklin Johnson 46131 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3465 Webb Elementary School 1400 WEBB CT Franklin Johnson 46131 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3433 Union Elementary School 3990 W DIVISION RD Bargersville Johnson 46106 A - Short Term B - Basement
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3445 Franklin Community High School 2600 CUMBERLAND DR Franklin Johnson 46131 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Franklin Community School Corp 3457 Franklin Community Middle School 625 GRIZZLY CUB DR Franklin Johnson 46131 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Hamilton Southeastern Schools 2487 Fishers High School 13000 PROMISE RD Fishers Hamilton 46038 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Hamilton Southeastern Schools 2473 Fall Creek Elementary School 12131 OLIO RD Fishers Hamilton 46037 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Hamilton Southeastern Schools 2490 Riverside Junior High School 10910 ELLER RD Fishers Hamilton 46038 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Hamilton Southeastern Schools 2479 Sand Creek Intermediate School 11550 E 131ST ST Fishers Hamilton 46038 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 M S D Decatur Township 5187 Valley Mills Elementary School 5101 S HIGH SCHOOL RD Indianapolis Marion 46221 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 M S D Pike Township 5378 New Augusta Public Academy - South 6250 RODEBAUGH RD Indianapolis Marion 46268 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 M S D Pike Township 5356 Guion Creek Middle School 4401 W 52ND ST Indianapolis Marion 46259 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 M S D Pike Township 5353 Pike High School 5401 W 71ST ST Indianapolis Marion 46268 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2014 M S D Washington Township 5451 North Central High School 1801 E 86TH ST Indianapolis Marion 46240 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6393 Waverly Elementary School 8525 WAVERLY RD Martinsville Morgan 46151 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6373 Paul Hadley Middle School 200 W CARLISLE ST Mooresville Morgan 46158 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6381 Newby Memorial Elementary School 240 N MONROE ST Mooresville Morgan 46158 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6385 North Madison Elementary School 7456 E HADLEY RD Camby Marion 46113 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6375 Neil Armstrong Elementary 1000 STATE RD 144 Mooresville Morgan 46158 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Mooresville Con School Corp 6369 Mooresville High School 550 N INDIANA ST Mooresville Morgan 46158 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Muncie Community Schools 1431 Northside Middle School 2400 W BETHEL AVE Muncie Delaware 47304 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Tipton Community School Corp 8163 Tipton Elementary School 1099 S MAIN ST Tipton Tipton 46072 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Tipton Community School Corp 8177 Tipton High School 619 S MAIN ST Tipton Tipton 46072 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Tipton Community School Corp 8167 Tipton Middle School 817 S MAIN ST Tipton Tipton 46072 A - Short Term O - Other/Unknown
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0510 Zionsville West Middle School 5565 S 700 EAST Whitestown Boone 46075 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0511 Zionsville Middle School 900 N FORD RD Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0541 Union Elementary 11750 E 300 SOUTH Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0514 Eagle Elementary School 350 N 6TH ST Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0517 Pleasant View Elementary 4700 S 975 EAST Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0512 Zionsville Community High School 1000 MULBERRY ST Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0544 Boone Meadow Elementary 5555 S 650 EAST Whitestown Boone 46075 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor
2012 Zionsville Community Schools 0542 Stonegate Elementary 7312 W STONEGATE DR Zionsville Boone 46077 A - Short Term F - First Floor/Main Floor

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