ST. PAUL, Minn. Lawmakers are pushing for tougher radon testing requirements in schools across Minnesota following a KARE 11 investigation.
“After the report that came out of KARE 11, it was very upsetting that school districts weren’t mandating the testing for this,” said Senator Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove).
Minnesota currently recommends – but does not require – testing for the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Bigham, along with Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury), Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplelwood), Sen. Justin Eichorn (GOP-Grand Rapids) and Sen. Mark Johnson (GOP-East Grand Forks) are behind a bipartisan plan that would establish more rigorous and regular testing requirements for all of Minnesota's public schools.
“It’s a known carcinogen!” Bigham exclaimed, “And so we have to really make sure we’re protecting the children and the staff and the communities that hold events at our schools.”
The bill is in response to a report last week by KARE 11 Investigates that found just 53 of 331 districts across the state have reported testing classrooms for radon since 2012, despite recommendations by both state and federal health officials.
Following that report, Governor Mark Dayton promised action. “To have some hidden killer like this and school districts not to even bother to test for it is just disgraceful,” Dayton said.
“I think the governor said it very well that he was very shocked as well and disappointed and upset about. I am too,” said Senator Bigham. “So, we’re going to do something about it.”
If approved, the plan would require the Commissioners of the Minnesota’s Department of Health and Department of Education to jointly develop a plan to require public school districts to “accurately and efficiently” test for the presence of radon.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor radon exposure causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year,” Sen. Bigham said. “The plan I am introducing puts in place concrete reforms to protect kids from radon exposure while at school, ensuring they can grow up and live healthier lives.”
The bill would also require school districts to include radon testing as part of their 10-year facility plans. Results of radon testing would be made available to the public at school board meetings. The bill does not specify exactly how often schools would need to test classrooms.
Several other states already mandate that schools test for radon.
- Rhode Island requires schools, daycare centers & other public buildings be radon tested.
- Virginia also requires every school building be tested.
- The District of Columbia says all public buildings, including schools, must be tested.
- Colorado requires all public and private schools be radon tested.
- Oregon mandates that schools test all frequently occupied ground level rooms at least every 10 years.
If Minnesota joins that group of states requiring radon testing, it would go into effect for the 2019-2020 school year.
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