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Radon in Schools: A Review of Radon Testing Efforts in Canadian Schools

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Radon, a known carcinogen, becomes a health risk when it accumulates inside buildings. Exposure is of particular concern for children, as their longer life expectancy increases their lifetime risk of developing cancer. In 2016, 5.5 million students were enrolled in Canadian elementary and secondary schools. With no national policy on radon testing in schools, children may be at risk from radon exposure while attending school and school-based programs. This study explored radon testing efforts in publicly funded Canadian schools and summarizes where testing programs have occurred. Radon testing in schools was identified through a systematic qualitative enquiry, surveying members from different levels of government (health and education) and other stakeholders (school boards, research experts, among others). Overall, this research found that approaches to radon testing varied considerably by province and region. Responsibility for radon testing in schools was often deferred between government, school boards, building managers and construction parties. Transparency around radon testing, including which schools had been tested and whether radon levels had been mitigated, also emerged as an issue. Radon testing of schools across Canada, including mitigation and clear communication strategies, needs to improve to ensure a healthy indoor environment for staff and students.
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