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Alaska Survey of School Environmental Health Includes Radon

by Margaret Henderson

School Environmental Health: An Investment in Our Future, a slide presentation, notes radon as a possible air contaminant in Alaska schools. http://dhss.alaska.gov/akshwi/documents/2017presentations/schoolenvironmentalhealth.pdf It is estimated that 69% of schools in Alaska have at least one inadequate building feature and 80% have at least one unsatisfactory environmental factor.

The slides cover survey results of perceptions of environmental health in Alaska schools, with respondents from 39 communities and 71 schools. The purposes of the survey and followup presentation were to:

* understand perceptions of environmental health in schools;

* identify environmental hazards;

* discuss their importance on student performance; and

* provide educational resources and steps to improve school environments.

Respondents overwhelmingly (98%) noted that environmental health is very important. Approximately 5% identified radon as an environmental health problem.

In noting that exposure to environmental hazards in schools leads to lead to adverse health outcomes and less successful performance, the presentation explains that some chemicals and gases, such as radon, have been shown to cause cancer.

Further discussion about air contaminants identified radon hazards and its occurrence. For further detail, the slide presentation directs the reader to Radon in Alaska: Current Knowledge and Recommendations, a State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin, published by the Department of Health and Social Services. http://epibulletins.dhss.alaska.gov/Document/Display?DocumentId=16

Additional resources are provided regarding radon including the USEPA A Citizen’s Guide to Radon https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016- 12/documents/2016_a_citizens_guide_to_radon.pdf

During the past 24 years, 21% of the 3,200 valid radon test results (from residential and other sites) were equal to or exceeded 4.0 pCi/L, USEPA recommended action level. Examining radon in relation to schools is part of the outreach efforts of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, made possible through USEPA funding.

For more information, contact:

Madison Pachoe

Environmental Public Health Program, Section of Epidemiology madison.pachoe@alaska.gov

Telephone: 907-269-5040

and

University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Cooperative Extension

Telephone: 800-478-8324