Radon in Schools and Child Care Programs

Outside of the home, schools and child care programs are additional places where children may be exposed to radon. Read more about radon in these settings.

Table of Contents

What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes naturally from soil and rocks. Radon gas can travel from the ground into a building through cracks and holes in the foundation. Any building, can have high radon levels, no matter the foundation type or whether it has a basement.

What are the dangers of radon?

Ways Radon Can Enter the Home. The image shows the inside of a home — bathroom, living room, kitchen, and basement. Red arrows show radon entry pathways. Radon sources include radon gas from soil and radon in well water. Radon can enter a home through a sump pump pit, floor-wall joints, floor cracks, and exposed soil in a crawlspace. Radon gas entering at the lowest level of the home can move to other areas. Radon from well water can enter a home through water taps, showers, dishwashers, and washers.
Reducing the Risk from Radon: Information and Interventions A Guide for Health Care Providers. Publication No. E-18-2.

Radon can build up inside a building and cause lung cancer if you breathe it in over many years. Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke. Lung cancer risk is much higher for people who are exposed to radon and smoke.

Any radon exposure carries some risk of lung cancer. Lowering the radon level in a building reduces lung cancer risk. You can take the first step to reduce these risks by testing for radon.

Children may face higher risks from radon exposure. They are growing quickly, so they are more sensitive to radiation. Children also spend a lot of time indoors, so they may breathe in more radon than adults. A child’s home is a possible source for radon exposure. Outside of the home, schools and child care programs are additional places where children spend much of their time and may be exposed to radon.

Where is radon a problem?

Any building can have high levels of radon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 1 in 5 schools has at least one frequently occupied ground contact room with radon levels above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). Less is known about radon risks in child care programs. No area of Massachusetts is free of radon risk.

How do I know if a building has radon?

Radon Causes Lung Cancer. Included is text encouraging parents to “ask your school principal or child care program to (1) test your school and (2) fix the building if it has a high radon level. Included is an image of two young children seated on a carpeted floor and playing together with toys.

You can’t see, taste, or smell radon. The only way to know if a school or child care program has high radon levels is to test for it. Ask the principal or director if they have tested for radon, and ask to see the results.

Visit www.mass.gov/radon for more information on radon testing and mitigation. If you have questions, contact the Massachusetts Radon Hotline at (800) 723-6695.

Additional Resources

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