The English School District says radon levels requiring remediation have been identified in several dozen schools in the province.
Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is found naturally in the environment as the result of the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. While not uncommon, breathing in radioactive particles over an extended period can result in damaging health effects. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.
In 2018, the NLESD began a project with Health Canada involving radon testing in randomly chosen schools across the province. Eight schools require remediation within a year, while 25 schools require mitigation within two years.
Remediation measures are relatively simple, according to the school district, and involve reducing pressure under the floor slab with a pipe and fan, allowing gases to be expelled into the atmosphere and not into the school.
The affected school communities have been notified and because radon is in the ground, Health Canada advises that nearby homes be checked for radon levels as well.
“All sites requiring remediation have been assessed and mitigation equipment purchased. Please note Health Canada has been unequivocal in stating that they do not consider it a risk for buildings to remain occupied as long as the mitigation timelines are met.
NLESD is taking advice from Health Canada, which is the federal body with the most knowledge and experience with radon and public health, and working with a Provincial Government expert in radon mitigation. Since radon is not a function of the building, but rather the ground, a school test being higher than normal is an indicator that other buildings in the vicinity could be high too. As such, Health Canada advises that individuals may wish to investigate radon levels in their homes as well. The District has tested schools proactively; followed all Health Canada advice, and where results have been received, has completed mitigation in advance of the deadlines outlined.”
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