Mold, Moisture & Radon
The breatheable dangers in your schools
Common Moisture Sources Found in Schools
Moisture problems in school buildings can be caused by a variety of conditions, including roof and plumbing leaks, condensation and excess humidity. Some moisture problems in schools have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the past twenty to thirty years. These changes have resulted in more tightly sealed buildings that may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems in schools are also associated with delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance, due to budget and other constraints. Temporary structures in schools, such as trailers and portable classrooms, have frequently been associated with moisture and mold problems.
Suggestions for Reducing Mold Growth in Schools
- Reduce Indoor Humidity
- Vent showers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
- Control humidity levels and dampness by using air conditioners and de-humidifiers.
- Provide adequate ventilation to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30-60%.
- Use exhaust fans whenever cooking, dish washing and cleaning in food service areas.
Inspect the building for signs of mold, moisture, leaks or spills
- Check for moldy odors.
- Look for water stains or discoloration on the ceiling, walls, floors, and window sills.
- Look around and under sinks for standing water, water stains, or mold.
- Inspect bathrooms for standing water, water stains, or mold.
- Do not let water stand in air conditioning or refrigerator drip pans.
Respond promptly when you see signs of moisture and/or mold, or when leaks or spills occur
- Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours of occurrence to prevent mold growth.
- Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
- Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely.
- Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
- Check the mechanical room and roof for unsanitary conditions, leaks, or spills.
Prevent moisture condensation:
- Add insulation to reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. windows, piping, exterior walls, room, or floors).
Floor and carpet cleaning
- Remove spots and stains immediately, using the flooring manufacturer’s recommended techniques.
- Use care to prevent excess moisture or cleaning residue accumulation and ensure that cleaned areas are dried quickly.
- Do not install carpeting in areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
Radon in Schools
Chances are you’ve already heard of radon - a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.
But what you might not have heard is that high levels have been found in a number of schools across the country. Therefore, it is important that students, teachers and parents be aware that a potential problem could exist in their school.
A nationwide survey of radon levels in schools estimates that nearly one in five has at least one schoolroom with a short-term radon level above the action level of 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) - the level at which EPA recommends that schools take action to reduce the level. EPA estimates that more than 70,000 schoolrooms in use today have high short-term radon levels.
The only way to determine if a problem exists is to test for it. Having your school tested for radon is something you may want to discuss with your school officials. Because as real as the threat of radon is, the good news is that the problem can be solved.
The EPA ranks indoor radon among the most serious environmental health problems facing us today. After smoking, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States causing an estimated twenty one thousand (21,000) lung cancer deaths a year.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that seeps into buildings from the surrounding soil. In some cases, well water may be a source of radon.
You can’t see, taste, or smell radon. In fact, the only way to discover if high levels of radon are present is through testing.
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe.
As these particles break down, they release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. An individual’s risk of getting lung cancer from radon depends mostly on three factors: the level of radon, the duration of exposure and their smoking habits.
EPA recommends that all schools nationwide be tested for radon. To date, approximately 20% of the schools nationwide have done some testing. Some states have tested all their public schools.
How are schools tested for radon?
Testing for radon is simple and relatively inexpensive. EPA has published guidance that is available free to schools throughout the country.
What happens if your school fails the test?
Every home should also take this test. Fortunately, even if your school does fail the radon test, the problem can be corrected. Proven techniques are available that will lower radon levels and lower risks of lung cancer from radon exposure.
School is not the only place that students and teachers can be exposed to radon. Since children spend more time at home, high radon levels there can pose a much greater threat to their health.
Once again, testing is simple and inexpensive. After all, radon is one health problem nobody should have to live with - at home or at school. Call your State Radon Office for more information.
The basic elements of testing are:
- Test all frequently used rooms on and below the ground level;
- Conduct tests in the cooler months of the year