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Radon Reflections at the Tools for Schools Symposium

2010 January 26

January is National Radon Action Month, or NRAM. Read more about EPA’s radon activities and what others are doing to reduce their radon exposure.

Each year, EPA’s Indoor Environments Division hosts an indoor air quality, or IAQ, symposium in Washington D.C. This year’s 10th IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium took place January 14 to 16 — during National Radon Action Month. As a scientist for EPA’s Center for Radon and Air Toxics, naturally I was delighted to have the opportunity to present radon information at the symposium.

Workgroup meeting at Indoor Air Quality SymposiumThis year’s symposium featured five school districts with specific IAQ design challenges. Each attendee played an integral role as a design team member, formulating strategies to help a school district improve IAQ management. As I interacted with teams, I discovered IAQ stakeholders in many forms: facilities managers, building technicians, nurses, principals, government and even parents. Despite their different roles, people were passionate for school health and worked together to produce excellent solutions in a short period of time.

Discussions about radon were abundant at the symposium. While sipping my latte, a man started a conversation about radon in his school district. He whispered as if it were a secret, “We build radon prevention right into our new school designs.” My eyes lit up so bright; I think I startled him, or maybe he thought I was going to hug him. The importance of preventing pollutants from entering a building is no secret; think about how vapor barriers, gutters and even window screens keep a number of pollutants safely out of the indoor environment.

I overheard someone say, “How will they know if they don’t test?” I smiled and shook my head vigorously in agreement. Clearly this person had just grasped how important it is to test for radon. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, three children were recognized during the National Radon Poster Contest awards luncheon, and EPA’s Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, touted the benefits of recognizing radon in school IAQ.

As I reflect on activities at the symposium, it’s clear that radon is certainly at the forefront of school IAQ management. My hope is that symposium attendees will share their reflections on the symposium here or blog about it on Please comment, reply and get your story out there.

About the Author: Jani Palmer is a Physical Scientist in the Indoor Environments Division. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for 10 years providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry, and public agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Nancy Jih permalink
    January 26, 2010

    People has tendency to say it all, but to act is a difficult part, as an old saying it is easy to say than to do.

    The most important choice I make is to become a shepherd on this enviornment issue. From regular daily life, office environment, your own house, shopping area, health club and so on, you can have many opportunities to show people the way you are doing for the sake of protection of environment.

    Once you initiate and set the good example and such good influence will spead and your circle of friends will enventually follow your foot step and gradually this circle will expand and more and more people are really doing it insteading of saying.

    And this is my mission of course spreading the seed is just the beginning and we shall anticipate the harvest in the long run

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Thank you so much for your essential information. I am grateful to Dutch Colonialism which built my school who I studied until 12nd grd. in 1974. My school past, good wide ventilation and made the students concentrated learned process. But now, different. Almost our school just interest to develop simple classrooms. Perhaps, for decades, our school should not follow like as your story.

  3. David Mc permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Radon is natural. I suppose you’ll try to regulate CO2 next? Are shorter human lifespans good for the environment? (I’m just being facetious of course).

  4. David Mc permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Radon-222 is a member of the radioactive decay chain of uranium-238

    In a fission nuclear reactor, uranium-238 can be used to breed plutonium-239, which itself can be used in a nuclear weapon or as a reactor fuel source. In fact, in a typical nuclear reactor, up to a third of the generated power does come from the fission of plutonium-239, which is not supplied as a fuel to the reactor, but transmuted from uranium-238.

    Is the government using results to “map out” future energy sources?

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    January 26, 2010

    I’m very glad EPA is working with the schools on the radon issue and is testing schools for chemical exposure. California schools can’t do this on their own because of the major budget cuts of the past 3 years and more to come this year. School districts here are laying off teachers and school librarians. Libraries and labs are closing. I can remember when I was in school in the 1960s. Our school buildings were built in the 1950s with large picture windows in them. But no one then worried about radon. It was more common for us to stay inside the rooms because at that time there were a lot of 3ed stage smog alerts that meant we could not go outside, and several times wildfires got close enough to make us stay in because of the smoke and falling embers. A couple of times school was cancelled and we had to stay home because smoke from a forest fire was to thick and too many embers were falling. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Max permalink
    January 29, 2010

    I think education can play an important role in the protection of environment. because educated person know that environment is directly related to his life. Uneducated person don’t know this fact.
    so, we should work together towards the protections of our environment.

  7. Amy Cameron permalink
    April 15, 2010

    Indoor air quality management should be observed (a must) especially in schools. And this should also be another factor to consider when selecting a school for your kids. I don’t think it would be rude to ask them about IAQ management practices in their school. We’re just after the safety of our children.

    Amy Cameron

  8. askthecoolman permalink
    January 10, 2011

    Great post .Thanks for sharing.Will definately be returning for updates.

  9. mountainbike permalink
    September 15, 2013

    Props will determine success in learning.
    Thanks for posting, very inspiring.

  10. Admax Pro permalink
    September 3, 2014

    This article is very good, thank you

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