The 2015 Oregon Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 2931 to assess elevated radon levels in Oregon schools. HB 2931 later became Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 332.166-167. Under the statute, school districts must have a plan for testing each school site and submitting to the Oregon Health Authority. Testing results are available to the public by contacting the Facilities and Maintenance Department at 541-757-5877.
What is radon?
Thank you to the Oregon Health Authority for the following content.
Radon comes from natural deposits of uranium in the soil. It is found everywhere in the world. Uranium naturally decays into radium that further breaks down into radon gas. While some geographic areas have more radon than others, the only way to determine a building’s radon level is to test it. Any building has the potential for elevated levels of radon. Because radon is a gas, it can move up through the soil, allowing it to enter buildings in contact with the soil. Radon is typically at its highest concentration in the lower portion of a building. Once radon enters a building, it is easily dispersed through the air. It then begins a radioactive decay process that leads to creating radon decay products. Radon gas itself is relatively harmless until it produces these decay products. The decay products release damaging energy particles that strike lung tissue and lead to lung tissue damage if inhaled.
Radon is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless, tasteless and radioactive gas. Radon travels through the soil and enters buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation. Radon is a human carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to elevated radon concentrations causes an increased risk of lung cancer. Like other environmental pollutants, the extent of radon’s health risk is uncertain.
What is the Environmental Protection Agency action level?
U.S. EPA recommends reducing the concentration of radon in indoor environments to below the radon action level of 4.0 pCi/L. This action is not health-based; there is no safe level of radon exposure. While the radon in most buildings can be lowered below 4.0 pCi/L, this may depend on the building’s and its grounds’ characteristics.
Per ORS 332.166-167, school radon measurement teams (i.e., personnel appointed to measure a school site for elevated radon) must, at a minimum, conduct initial measurements in all frequently occupied rooms in contact with the soil or located above a basement or a crawlspace.
- All frequently occupied rooms should be tested at the same time.
- Room examples include offices, classrooms, conference rooms, gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias and break rooms.
- A minimum of one detector for every 2,000 square feet of open floor space or portion thereof is required.