Monday, November 23, 2015

Exclusive: Thousands of MCPS students exposed to high levels of radon

No retesting or remediation years later, in spite of EPA recommendations 

Radon test reports obtained last week by the Parents' Coalition reveal that radon levels in several schools have exceeded the "corrective action recommended" levels for years. Based on the date of the reports (November 3, 2015), it appears that MCPS has taken no action to correct the problems or has any long term testing underway.

Normal radon decay causes emission of ionizing radiation.  Scientists have long established that ionizing radiation is a significant cause of cancer.

Data from a few of the affected schools is below.   Although we asked for the entire test reports, MCPS provided only the summary data shown below, so we don't know which classrooms have the high levels.

The EPA recommends retesting and remediation when levels are above 4.0 pCi/L.


Parents and teachers should ask MCPS for the detailed reports and testing methodology for their schools.

The EPA recommends that testing be performed during normal classroom use because radon levels can vary depending on building ventilation and other factors.   The most accurate tests require long term sampling, typically lasting a few months.

Click here to go to the EPA Radon in Schools web site  

Click here to go to an NIH study about the relationship between radon and childhood leukemia


  1. First, WiFi nonionizing radiation
    Then, Radon ionizing radiation
    Without retesting or remediation
    Hot topics at the Board of Education.

  2. It would be helpful to see the full report (Scribd links?) or at least share the date of reports (mentioned in 2nd sentence). My child's school is listed but I've never heard radon concerns mentioned by staff. I do know that they have done asbestos remediation and made some HVAC changes that might have helped.
    Thank you for posting this information as the MCPS web site does not offer much reassurance. The IAQ page ( refers to specific recommendations made in 1998 but I don't see anything more recent. In addition, the 1998 report mentions radon once and that is in the background information section.

    1. Yes, your Apple Ballot Board of Education member has all of this information.

      Start with someone who the Washingtonian Magazine says is one of the 100 most powerful women. You bet she's powerful. She's not giving parents and guardians this information. In fact, if you ask for information about your child's school she will publicly call you a pain in the ass.


    2. Patricia O'Neill

      5th term expires 2018
      Resident of Bethesda

      Tel: 301-320-7600
      E-mail: Patricia_O'
      (see e-mail notice)
      Fax: 301-320-7601
      Carver Educational Services
      Center, Room 123
      850 Hungerford Drive
      Rockville, Maryland 20850

    3. The reports are dated November 3, 2015. Therefore, it's been at least two years since the "retesting was scheduled". It doesn't take two years to run a radon test.

    4. Radon tests are often sold at local hardware stores and can be gotten on line. The testing last time I did one myself was leaving the test kit open for a day or so in the basement and then seal the kit and mail it and the results were sent out and then mailed back in a matter of days. These days the results are probably e mailed even faster. The whole kit used to be I believe about 20 dollars. You can't even sell a house usually without this test so any local realtor in the area can direct the school board to where they can get a kit and have the results by about Thanksgiving.

    5. you will likely have to MPIA these reports and any information. The Attorney General provides a handy template letter at his website, Make a specific request for the test for your school.

  3. Information on radon from the EPA at It is fairly easy to purchase an inexpensive radon kit. The PTA or your child could easily test the classroom for radon levels. Don't wait for the Board of Education. It will never happen. This is very dangerous as the EPA has stated numerous times.

  4. Not to worry about young children at Beall Elementary School, who inhale toxic radioactive Radon gas...

    It's not like there are an inordinate number of children that will get lung cancer...

    but wait, Beall Elementary School is at 127% of its capacity. That means that 171 additional children (in addition to the 638 who are supposed to be there) are exposed to this life-shortening risk every day.

    Children with lungs full of Radon could go outside to get some fresh air...

    but wait, many can't play outside because portable classrooms now sit where playground space used to be.

    At least the kids in the portables don’t have to worry about Radon...

    but wait, many portable classrooms have tested positive for black mold spores.

    Isn't great that we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., that values the physical wellbeing of our children.

    1. Our county scholars
      With white collars
      Dine on steak and lobster
      With our earned dollars.

    2. and isn't it great that the voters keep re-electing the Board of Education members. Voters WANT this. They WANT their children exposed to cancer-causing radon, obviously.

    3. Regarding Beall ES, the current mayor of Rockville, Bridget Newton, was president of the Beall ES PTA awhile ago at a time when the PTA mobilized -- successfully -- against the principal. You might want to see if she is interested in this.

    4. First, Radon is a gas that accumulates in the basement. It's a heavy gas, FAR heavier than air so it settles to the lowest area of an enclosure and that's also where it's coming from, i.e. from the uranium in the soil surrounding a basement. It doesn't naturally make it's way into the upper reaches of a house or building.

      Even if a school is chock full of Radon it's not likely in the classrooms and the likely exposure to it of children and teachers is low, but that remains to be seen by "open" testing and dissemination of that testing, but for sure this is a problem in houses.

      It's great to get your knickers in a twist over the schools, but how many people reading this or paying any attention to this have tested their homes? How many have their rec rooms in the basement, where the kids play? How many have their kids in the basement on a regular basis for extended times for whatever reason? That's where the greatest exposure to radon would happen, not in the schools.

    5. It is in the classrooms. Homes have to be tested when sold. See Montgomery County Council.
      Remediation is done in homes all the time.

      MCPS isn't even doing the recommended testing, much less remediation where they found high levels in classrooms. Some of the spaces were teacher spaces, doesn't MCEA care about the health and safety of it's members?

    6. "Homes have to be tested when sold" Uh huh ... we bought our home in 2009, there was NO requirement to test then. Indeed, as I'm sure Ms. Sartucci is well aware, the county requirement came into effect just weeks ago. So whom are you kidding Ms. Sartucci? If there was no requirement before Nov 2015 every kid in the county whose parents didn't test their homes before buying them are living in homes that are potential radon hotspots, which would have FAR great negative impact on their health than anything that they'd encounter in a reasonably well-ventilated school.

      So once again PCM looks for something to get worked up over, radon in schools, but totally ignores the issue that really endangers children, radon in homes, and offers up "Homes are required to be tested when sold" as a reason for why we all shouldn't be concerned. Radon in homes is certainly something we should be far more concerned about than for the 28 schools that MCPS indicates was a problem, all of which are to be tested again and remediation provided if there's still a problem.

      It's this sort of hyperbolic mis-direction and inappropriate focus that undermines PCM's credibility.

    7. Mr. Nugent,

      Many, many children live OUTSIDE of the Churchill Cluster. Get to know the many, many children that live in apartments, condos etc... basements are not their issue.

      Funny you are so concerned about "credibility." MCPS lying to Councilmember Craig Rice does what to the credibility of MCPS administrators?

      From mymcmedia:
      Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice said he was surprised to learn of elevated radon levels in 26 schools and two MCPS buildings last week. That’s because as the sponsor of a recently passed radon bill, he said, his staff previously asked the school district for information about radon levels and was assured there was not an issue.

  5. If MCPS cannot even deal with a known 100% cancer causing radiation like radon.. how can we even expect them to deal with wireless radiation which is a possible cancer causing radiation also known to damage the immune system and reproductive organs at very low levels.

    See the Safe Tech for Schools Maryland blog to learn more about wireless health risks.

  6. I believe it was posted here, maybe as much as half year ago,, that a decent size radon warning sign was seen posted in one of the elementary schools basement classes, I believe next to the entrance of a special needs restraint area class.

  7. Research has been replicated showing wireless in combination with a known carcinogen equals higher rates of leukemia and tumors.

    Lerchl et al., Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Available online 6 March 2015.
    A replication study. “Numbers of tumors of the lungs and livers in exposed animals were significantly higher than in sham-exposed controls. In addition, lymphomas were also found to be significantly elevated by exposure. A clear dose–response effect is absent. We hypothesize that these tumor-promoting effects may be caused by metabolic changes due to exposure. Since many of the tumor-promoting effects in our study were seen at low to moderate exposure levels (0.04 and 0.4 W/kg SAR), thus well below exposure limits for the users ...

    When will MCPS do the right thing and put kids safety first!

    RF-EMF emissions (Wireless radiation) "should be regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as group 1 according to the International Agency for the Research on Cancer classification. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised.”
    -Dr. Lennart Hardell

    1. MCPS is the school system that the citizens of Montgomery County want. Election after election they return the same Board of Education members back in to office. It's not MCPS that does not put kids safety first, it is the voters of Montgomery County.

      The Apple Ballot selects the BOE members for their lack of interest in children, the voters put into office the Apple Ballot Teacher Picks.

    2. You're right Ms. Sartucci, we're all to blame.

    3. Next year, 3 Board of Education members will be up for re-election.

      Are parents ready to stop playing this game, or do they want 4 more years?

  8. The teachers are in the rooms all day too. weird that they are not concerned about their health, especially if any of them are pregnant. I would be concerned, but hey, that's just me. Lucky thing their union leaders at MCEA are looking out for them.

    1. They are at an even higher risk as they are in the same classroom for multiple years, whereas a student might only be in a high risk classroom for one year, or less if its a special class that meets once a day. Basement classrooms are at a higher risk for radon.

  9. If parents are not infuriated, then "Houston, we have a problem".

  10. another thing to note is that 4 is a permissible level, but not a "safe" level and that radon levels below 4 pCi/l still pose some risk. the goal is to get the levels down to 2 pCi/l or less which can easily be done.

  11. Where's Mr Radon, yet protector- of- all- things MCPS , Craig Rice on this?


  12. I talked to the director of building services last week after this report showed up (before it hit the news) and got the specific report for our school Fallsmead ES. Half of the classrooms were 4.0 or above. The test was performed in 2012 people! THis is what the news story missed! Done in 2012 and they did NOTHING! Their protocol per the director was to retest as he saw no issues with levels between 4-6 even though the EPA recommends remediation for levels over 4 and to consider remediation for levels 2-4. He was looking for records of retesting at Fallsmead ES and found none. I asked him how the protocol was formulated outside of EPA recommendations, why retesting and/or remediation was never done, to which I got no answers. Also, why was no public notification done as I would have liked to choose to keep my son out of school. I have the classroom by classroom report ofr our school and my son spent his first grade in the room with the highest level in the school. We are not happy with this and someone should lose their job as it was either covered up purposefully or neglected to to incompetence. Not sure which is worse!. Parents pressured them into retesting TODAY.

  13. A level of 4.0 is equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes per day, according to government web sites.

    1. With Bower's "let them eat cake" attitude, what's wrong with five year olds inhaling the equivalent of nearly 2,000 cigarettes a year?

  14. All this sudden gas emission
    Calls for an intermission
    And an honest admission
    From the radon commission.


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