Radon Problems at School or Work

Contact: Aaron Berndt 517-327-2618
Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Elevated radon levels can occur in any indoor environment and exposure in the school or workplace can increase one's risk of developing lung cancer. However, because many people spend much of their time at home, the home is likely to be the most significant source of radon exposure, and all homes should be tested. When elevated radon levels are found, they should be reduced.

Since schools may be the second largest contributor to a child's radon exposure (or to teachers or staff), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommends that radon testing be conducted at all school buildings and that action be taken to reduce elevated radon levels.

Surveys have shown that radon levels can vary significantly from room to room within a school.  ANSI/AARST MALB-2014 Protocol for Conducting Measurements of Radon and Radon Decay Products in Schools and Large Buildings requires testing in all frequently occupied rooms that are in contact with the ground. If a room is found to have a level greater than the USEPA guideline of 4 picocuries per liter (4 pCi/l), additional testing should be done to confirm the problem. If elevated levels are verified, action should be taken to reduce the radon level. For more information on testing procedures for schools, see ANSI/AARST MALB-2014 Protocol for Conducting Measurements of Radon and Radon Decay Products in Schools and Large Buildings

In 1991, the Michigan Indoor Radon Program conducted a survey of radon in Michigan's public schools. More than 13,000 measurement devices were placed in 388 randomly selected school buildings across the state. The survey resulted in nearly 11,600 statistically valid results in 373 buildings in 80 counties. Approximately 2.3 percent of the samples exceeded the USEPA guideline of 4 pCi/l, and these elevated levels were distributed among more than 25 percent of the buildings and in over 61 percent of the counties.

The survey was intended to determine the overall potential for radon problems in schools, and it did confirm that elevated radon levels could occur in schools. As is the case with homes, however, the only way to know whether a building has elevated radon levels is to test that building. Differing soils and geology, construction factors, and occupancy patterns can result in significantly different radon levels from room to room and from building to building, even in the same general locale. All buildings should be tested.

A non-school workplace would be the second largest contributor for much of the adult population, and as such, it would be a good idea to test for radon and reduce elevated levels in the indoor work environment. The procedures outlined in ANSI/AARST MALB-2014 Protocol for Conducting Measurements of Radon and Radon Decay Products in Schools and Large Buildings should be used for large buildings as well.

Additional helpful resources include:

ANSI/AARST CC-1000-2018 Soil Gas Control Systems in New Construction of Buildings