Monday, the schools faced lead in the drinking water. Friday, it was radon gas.
Superintendent of Public Instruction James Moss said Friday that Utah, like other states across the country, will test its schools for radon gas.The tests will come sometime next winter, at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, in an announcement made in Washington on Thursday, said elevated levels of radon gas were detected in screening measurements taken in 3,000 schoolrooms in 16 states. Utah was not included in the study.
Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally as the result of decaying uranium in rock and soil. The gas migrates through permeable rocks and soil, eventually escaping into the atmosphere or becoming trapped in buildings. Inhaling radon gas may increase the risk of lung cancer or may cause damage to lung tissue.
Earlier this week, officials announced that drinking water in Utah schools will be tested for lead. Elsewhere, some water coolers have been found to have lead-containing solder in them or are lead-lined.
Moss said both problems will be discussed with the superintendents of the state's 40 school districts at a May 1 meeting.
"I hope you sense that we're not having a problem. No evidence of lead in water coolers or radon gas has been found anywhere in Utah (schools)," Moss told the Utah Board of Education.
Because both issues involve children's safety, Utah will willingly participate in the voluntary testing, Moss said. However, funding will be a problem because neither the state school office nor the local school districts have money set aside for such tests.
But the schools don't have to find the money immediately. The EPA recommends the testing be done during the winter, when buildings are closed in and indoor air is recirculated, so officials can determine the highest levels of gas.