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Andover, Mass. Schools Awarded for Radon Program to Protect Children and Workers

Release Date: 02/01/2006
Contact Information:

U.S. EPA - New England Regional Office
February 1, 2006

Contact: David Deegan, 617-918-1017

(Boston) – EPA has awarded the Andover, Mass. school district with a national award for effectively utilizing radon-resistant features in the construction of the new High Plain Elementary and Wood Hill Middle Schools.

The prestigious "EPA Indoor Environments -- Radon in Schools Excellence Award" reflects the Andover School District’s use of radon resistant construction features, helping to block radon from entering a building. Additionally, if high levels of radon do occur, the features allow for the easy and inexpensive installation of fans to reduce radon levels.

"It’s vitally important, very manageable and relatively inexpensive to test for and control radon in indoor air," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Taking an effective, collaborative approach, the Andover Town Managers and School Administrators helped to keep their children safe. Their proactive leadership concerning radon exposure for both students and faculty serves as a model for how a school system can best identify and address radon exposure risks in the indoor environment.”

Radon is a radioactive, invisible and odorless gas that comes from the decay of naturally-occurring uranium in the earth's soil, and it can accumulate in homes and buildings at dangerous levels. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., with about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year attributable to radon exposure. In New England alone, about 1,000 people die each year from lung cancer due to radon exposure.

Andover Town Managers and the School Administrators worked in cooperation to protect the town’s students, teachers, and staff from the risks of elevated radon levels in a large new construction project. The Andover schools opened in September 2002. Comprehensive radon screening of the entire facility was conducted at the time of initial occupancy and again the following winter. All areas were found to be well below EPA’s concern levels.

A 1988 EPA radon survey indicated that 36 percent of Essex County homes were found to have indoor radon concentrations at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), which is the level that triggers concerns for human health effects. That information along with results of radon testing by town residents demonstrated the need to incorporate radon resistant new construction features into their new school. Andover Officials called on the technical resources of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Radon Program for assistance in identifying the need, specifying the materials and methods, and confirming their effectiveness.

Accepting the EPA award on behalf of the Andover schools, Dr. Claudia Bach, Superintendent of Schools stated, "On behalf of everyone connected with the School System, I am proud we are being recognized with this award. Andover consistently adheres to its number one priority, to protect the health and safety of all students, school personnel, and visitors. We are being acknowledged today because of our collective foresight and ability to work together to ensure this new facility was designed and built to create a safe environment to educate our children. I thank everyone who worked with us to make this effort a success."

Because most radon exposure occurs at home, EPA urges all New Englanders to test for radon gas in their homes as well as in schools and other buildings. Radon tests are inexpensive and easy to use. During cold winter months when people keep their homes sealed shut, radon levels can accumulate inside houses and other buildings. Do-it-yourself radon test kits are available from credentialed radon testing laboratories. EPA recommends that homes with radon levels of four picocuries per liter of air or higher be fixed to prevent accumulation of radon gas indoors.

More information on radon is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/radon/index.html , or call the Mass. Dept. of Public Health's Radon Hotline at 1-800-723-6695.

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