All Metro Schools Tested For Radon Gas - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

All Metro Schools Tested For Radon Gas

Updated: Dec 12, 2011 06:31 PM

By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than half of all Metro schools have high levels of the cancer causing gas, radon. Those are the results after the first phase of testing from the Metro Health Department.

The testing started after a NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered a forgotten local law that required tests.

Last spring, Metro Health Department employees began hanging radon test kits in every ground level classroom over various weekends.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned all schools have now been tested at least once.

Seventy-eight of Metro's 144 schools have classrooms with radon levels above what the EPA says is acceptable.

Seven of those schools have classrooms more than five times higher than the EPA standard.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

"I would hope that Metro Schools takes to heart those serious radon levels," said Bill Gemmill with the Professional Educators of Tennessee, an organization that advocates for teachers.

He says several Metro teachers have contacted him concerned about working in classrooms with high levels of the gas.

"I say right now something needs to be done about it," Gemmill said.

The seven schools with results five times higher than the EPA's acceptable level of 4 picoCuries include:

Glenview Elementary, which has three classrooms above 20 picoCuries.

Stratford High School has one classroom above 30.

And despite three different tests at Cane Ridge High School , two classrooms are still above 20.

The other schools with high levels include Maplewood High School, Glencliff Elementary, Dalewood Middle and Old Hickman Itinerant.

But perhaps most disturbing is that the EPA warned Metro Schools that it had a serious radon problem back in 1989, after tests showed extremely high levels at several schools.

In an interview earlier this year, Metro admitted it had done little to lower levels or even test for the gas since then.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Thomas Hatfield, Director of Maintenance for Metro Schools, "Why shouldn't every parent be concerned when they hear that?"

Hatfield responded at the time, "I don't know why they wouldn't be."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates said, "The EPA thought it was serious in 1989?"

"Yes," Hatfield said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed, "And there was nothing really done as far as testing?"

Hatfield responded, "I don't know that a whole lot was done after 1989."

Metro Schools wouldn't do an interview about these latest test results or show us what they are doing to lower levels at schools.

Schools must now submit a radon reduction plan to the health department within the next five months for those schools above 20 picoCuries.

All schools must meet EPA standards in two years.

And while more than half of all schools currently have high levels, there's one building that does not.

The main Administration building has no rooms above the EPA standard.

Metro Schools sent a statement saying 36 schools have three or fewer classrooms with high levels. School officials say they are increasing air flow in schools and sealing cracks to lower radon levels.

If you want to see radon levels at your school, visit the Metro webpage where all the test results are posted.


Click here to view updated results from the 2011 radon tests

Back to NC5 Investigates: Radon

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