New law may spark more radon testing in Indiana schools

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — You can’t see it, smell it or taste it.

Radon, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.

Now, Indiana law has changed in hopes of protecting people in schools.

Radon can seep from the ground through the concrete and into a building. Only a test can detect the gas. 

Bridget Westerfield, assistant principal at Cumberland Road Elementary School in the Hamilton Southeastern district, said she’s aware of the testing Hamilton Southeastern Schools does for radon gas. 

“I feel very fortunate that our district has been monitoring radon,” Westerfield said. “That’s one less thing I have to worry about as a mom.”

State lawmakers want more school districts to test for radon. On Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law that requires the state’s Health Department to give each public school district a “best practices” manual for indoor air-quality management and radon testing recommendations every three years.

Bob Rice, energy manager at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, said, “I’m very excited Gov. Holcomb signed the bill because now more schools are going to be tested. They’re going to have more knowledge out there.” 

Rice is very aware of the dangers of radon. “The first time you know you’ve had radon exposure is probably when you’re getting diagnosed with lung cancer,” Rice said. “Because it’s going ot build up in your body over years.”

Rice is the “radon guy” at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. “I make sure our schools are safe for our students and our teachers,” Rice said, by testing each school every five years. This year, four schools in the district were tested. All were found safe.

This new law takes effect July 1.

Radon resources

Anyone with questions about radon or needing to help test for it or get rid of it can calls these phone numbers provided by the EPA:

  • 800-767-7236: Purchase radon test kits by phone. 
  • 800-557-2366: Get live answers to radon questions. 
  • 800-644-6999: Radon Fit-It Hotline has general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.
  • 800-426-4791: The Safe Drinking Water Hotline has general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and standards for radon drinking water. It’s operated under a contract with the EPA.

Indiana’s Department of Health also has information on radon. 

An EPA interactive map shows the nation by county with each counties’ average radon readings.

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