High Radon Levels at Zephyr Cove Elementary

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Zephyr Cove Elementary School has had a long history of higher-than-normal Radon levels. Since the late 1980's, the school has had to revisit the problem, time and time again.

At the request of parents late last year, the school district once again tested Zephyr Cove...and once again, Radon levels were higher than recommended. After a second, more thorough testing was completed, school officials knew they were back to square one.

"We explained what the measurements were and the three rooms we began mitigating. We were very open and honest. We didn't hide anything," said Principal, Nancy Cauley.

Still, parents had concerns. Some even pulled their children out of class. You can't detect Radon with any of your five senses...so they wondered, how could it possibly be safe?

"When Radon gas decays, it gives off radioactive particles. So it's not the radon gas that's the problem, it's the decaying particles. If inhaled then, they can remain in the lungs," said Holly Luna of the Washoe County School District.

Health officials say long term exposure to high levels of Radon could mean an increase in the chance of developing lung cancer. Radon comes from the soil, and then can sometimes become trapped in stagnant air.

You can't get rid of it, but you can mitigate it. Zephyr Cove started by sealing cracks in classroom floors, to try to keep the Radon from entering. They also installed ventilators, which will act as vacuums, to pull the Radon gases out of the building.

It's a long process and there's no guarantee it will lower the Radon levels...but the school principal says life must go on. In response to parents with concerns about their children's health, Cauley added:

"I told them I would not have any problem bringing my child into this school. I have a son in 6th grade. I would not lose sleep at night knowing my child was here."

Children who were pulled out of Zephyr Elementary have since returned to school, but the Radon levels are still testing at a higher than normal average.

Two other Zephyr Cove schools, Kingsbury Middle School and George Whittel High School have also been tested for Radon. Kingsbury came out okay, but the district is still awaiting test results for the high school.

Radon levels are usually higher in areas where there's more granite...and historically, Zephyr Cove has consistently tested higher. This means there is also a chance that homes in that area have Radon levels that match those of the elementary school.

At an upcoming town hall meeting, the Douglas County school district will be handing out free Radon test kits to anyone who wants to check their home.

We've posted information about that meeting under the "Hot Topics" link, along with a few other sites you can visit to learn more about Radon.