PORTLAND – Portland Public Schools says it has received results showing elevated levels of radon in rooms throughout the district.
The announcement late Wednesday comes at a time when the district is facing criticism for its response to tests showing high levels of lead in the drinking water at some schools.
David Hobbs, senior director of facilities and asset management, outlined the radon findings in a memo to the school board and Superintendent Carole Smith.
Hobbs said roughly 800 rooms in 26 buildings were tested, and nine rooms in six schools exceeded an Environmental Protection Agency threshold that requires immediate follow up testing. EPA guidelines suggest the follow ups be done, if possible, during the coldest months of the season.
“We know June is not the coldest month of the season, but want to conduct this test immediately,” he wrote.
More than 100 other rooms exceeded an EPA standard that requires further long-term testing. Those tests will occur in the fall.
Most of the affected rooms are classrooms, but elevated levels of radon were also detected in boiler rooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums and the principal’s office at a southeast Portland elementary school.
Radon is an odorless and invisible gas that naturally exists in the ground and can cause lung cancer. It enters a building through openings in the foundation.
The Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring all school districts to create radon testing plans before the start of the 2016-17 academic year. The tests must be completed before January 1, 2021.
Hobbs said the Portland district wanted to get a head start, and hired a firm to conduct tests in March on 26 buildings that had high radon levels in 2001. The district got the results Wednesday.
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