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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

School Radon Tests Show Levels Down

Recent tests of the Lakeland School District schools show “dramatically lower” radon levels than a year ago, assistant school superintendent Bob Dutton said Monday.

The reason, school officials believe, is twofold.

For one, Dutton said, the late December tests were done while school was in session. The earlier tests, done in February 1994, were done with the schools closed and ventilation systems turned down.

“You probably had worst-case scenarios in most cases,” he said.

District maintenance workers have also spent much of the fall sealing basement cracks and improving ventilation.

“When we retested, we found we had much lower levels, almost everywhere,” he said.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, both colorless and odorless. Long-term exposure is believed to cause lung cancer.

The December test included 206 canisters placed in classrooms in the district’s eight schools.

None of the readings showed more than 40 picocuries per liter of air.

Federal standards recommend relocating children at readings of more than 100 picocuries.

More than three-fourths of the canisters, however, showed more than 4 picocuries per liter, the socalled “treatment level” at which school officials should test and try to reduce levels.

On Saturday, district officials plan to start a vacuum system underneath Athol Elementary School, site of the highest levels.

Workers are also installing an exhaust fan in that school’s multipurpose room. The February 1994 test showed an 82 picocurie level in that room.

Some schools tested low. At Garwood Elementary School, every room but one was below 4 picocuries. The one higher level was in the principal’s office.

At Spirit Lake Elementary School, all readings were below 10 picocuries.

At the district’s preschool at Rathdrum Upper Elementary, all readings were below 4 picocuries.

School officials were surprised by readings at the brand-new Betty Kiefer Elementary School. The readings there ranged from 6 picocuries to 33.

Dutton said workers are hooking up pipes and a fan to increase ventilation.

The December tests did not include rooms where work is being done. The contractor has guaranteed levels below 4 picocuries in those rooms. Dutton said the district will check that with testing when the work is complete.

“Obviously, we’ll have to monitor it over the long haul,” said Dutton. “The good news is that it (the radon) is something that can be taken care of.”