Discovery of radon in school sparks worries in Wells - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Discovery of radon in school sparks worries in Wells

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WELLS, Vt. -

"Outraged is one good explanation of how we feel. And we feel immediate attention is required," said Jennifer Miller of Wells.

Jennifer Miller and her husband, Don, pulled their son Lyle out of the Wells Village School when they learned it contains above-average levels of radon. Radon is a hazardous gas that comes from soil and bedrock. Testing for radon was done at the school in January 2013 and high levels of radon were detected in multiple areas of the school.

"The Department of Health told us there were no concerns-- safety, health concerns-- at this time," said Joan Paustain, the school superintendent.

David Glass is an environmental health expert for the state. He says parents should be concerned, but there is no need to panic.

"I think what's important to understand is it's not like carbon monoxide where it presents an immediate threat. The risk from radon is a long-term risk, and so really what you're concerned about is lifetime exposure to radon," Glass said.

The Millers say they are upset they were only just notified about radon in their son's school. The superintendent first learned of it in September.

"We felt we needed to take the time to research, make sure we had all the information," Paustain explained.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas known to be radioactive and cause cancer. The radon levels in some of the classrooms were twice as high as the surgeon general's warning.

"The way they estimate radon risk is-- for residences-- is based on 70 percent occupancy over 30 years. And so that's what we mean when we say it's a long-term exposure risk," Glass said.

The U.S. Department of Health just gave the school a $10,000 grant to get rid of the radon. The school board is still working on a plan.

"We are hoping to have it completed by June 30th and have all the levels of radon reduced to acceptable levels," Paustain said.

But parents like the Millers are still concerned about potential health risks. They won't be sending Lyle back to school until the problem is solved.

"As a parent, I want it cleaned up ASAP," Jennifer Miller said. "I don't want to wait. I want it done now."

There are no state or federal laws that mandate radon testing or removal. The health department says of the 325 schools in the state, just a fraction have been tested. But when radon is detected, health experts say it can be easily removed with a mitigation system.

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