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Students Safe Despite Elevated Radon Levels: Health Officer

Students Safe Despite Elevated Radon Levels: Health Officer

Despite elevated radon levels, Souris Consolidated School is safe for staff and students, says the province’s chief health officer.

Dr. Heather Morrison said radon only causes health effects after high levels of exposure over a long period of time.

“If there’s one key message, that would be it,” she said.

Recent test results showed levels of 588 becquerels per cubic metre and 386 becquerels per cubic metre in two rooms at the school.

Health Canada’s guideline sets the acceptable level at 200 becquerels per cubic

metre.

Morrison said she made recommendations to the Education Department and the Eastern School District to have work done right away to reduce the radon levels.

She also said radon is much less of an issue in the summer than it is in the winter, in part because there are more windows open in the building to help air circulate.

“That’s why also the risk for students

staying in the school to the end of the year ... the radon is not high this time of year,” she said.

It’s not the first time testing turned up elevated radon levels at the school, but Morrison said she called Health Canada to get an expert opinion on the issue.

Although some students and staff would spend years in the building, there is still not an immediate health concern.

“They have advised us that based on those levels and given that situation, they feel like, yes, it should be fixed but usually in those levels they give a two-year window for remediation,” she said.

Morrison said she understands why parents would be concerned about the radon levels.

“I would want it fixed, but I wouldn’t take my child out of school,” she said.

As for the level of risk, Morrison said it isn’t any different for children than it is for adults.

“Because it’s all about lifetime exposure,” she said.

Eastern School District superintendent Ricky Hood said the district took measures to try lower the radon levels after previous testing found elevated levels.

That included sealing cracks, which led to lower levels in 2009, but there were still some tests that showed elevated levels, Hood said.

The latest results came in May 11, Hood said, and when the district got them, it took immediate steps to talk to several government officials to figure out what to do.

Hood said the advice the district got was that the health risk was low, but immediate work was needed.

That’s when the province hired a radon remediation company, which was expected to visit the school Thursday to do some preliminary work, he said.

“There certainly will be much further investigation by that company in the near future and we’re hoping that the work can get

completed and get completed as soon as possible.”

Hood said the work done last time wasn’t entirely successful and he agreed it should have been fixed sooner.

“I wish we had done it earlier and found a permanent, positive solution earlier, but that’s sort of looking backward,” he said.

Read this article: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-05-18/article-2982474/Students-safe-despite-elevated-radon-levels%3A-health-officer/1