Radon gas detected in Warford Elementary School

Posted at 2:53 PM, Jan 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-18 18:59:10-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Hickman Mills School District recently tested its schools for radon gas and discovered low levels at Warford Elementary School.

The results for Warford elementary came back with up to 5 times the EPA mitigation level in several classrooms.

Teachers were told about the radon last week. 

A letter sent to 41 Action News outlines concern from a staff member at the school. 

“The EPA sets an action level at 4, so, if you have a test that is above 4 you want to either retest or put in a mitigation system,” said Carol Bollard, Public Health Inspector at the Kansas City Health Department.

The amount found in classrooms at Warford was more than 20.

“No communication went out to the parents on Friday, Monday, Tuesday… Last night a leak went out to the local news,” said James Slaughter, who has two kids that attend Warford.

Slaughter said he is upset the school did not inform parents of the detected radon immediately.

“When you wake up in the morning and you see radioactive gas in your kids’ school on a texted news story instead of from the district, I was pretty upset about that,” said Slaughter.

Slaughter was so upset and concerned he kept his kids home for the first half of the school day.

“I didn’t bring my kids to school at first because I didn’t realize at first how serious radon gas exposure was,” said Slaughter.

Ruth Terrell-Lee with the Hickman Mills School District said that Missouri Health and Senior Services informed the district that the amount found was not harmful to students. Terrell-Lee said in hindsight, they should have informed parents of the findings.

The District sent out this official statement Thursday:

"The district volunteered to participate in testing of radon for the entire district.  Once the report was received, the district reached out to the Department of Health and Senior Services for clarification on results and action that needed to take place.  According to the report given by the department, the only recommendation given was to adjust HVAC settings to improve elevated areas indicated on the report.   District officials and representatives from the Department of Health and Senior Services, met with the Warford staff on, Friday, January 12th after school to address any concerns and explain the district’s plan of action for mitigation.  The district is also being offered a grant from the Department of Health and Senior Services for mitigation. The district will utilize the grant monies to mitigate areas as needed.   

The safety of our students and staff is the District's top priority!! It is important to note that officials from Department of Health and Senior Services has reassured the district that at no time any student or staff member of the Hickman Mills family has ever been or currently is in danger of any health risks."

Radon gas can cause lung cancer after years of prolonged exposure. Terrell-Lee said a representative with the Missouri Health and Senior Services came to speak with staff. Staff members were told that in order for the amount of radon detected in the school to have an impact, a person would have to spend 19 hours a day in the school for 20 years.

The district sent a letter home to parents on Thursday informing them of the testing and the results. 

The district has received a grant to mitigate the problem and will be updating parents monthly on the progress on its website.

January is national radon testing month. Northwest Missouri is considered a high risk area for radon, according to the EPA. Health officials recommend testing your home every few years to be aware of its radon levels. Several counties are providing free testing kits along with the state.

The EPA is also giving away free radon test kits Friday Jan. 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Swope Park Health Center (3801 Blue Pkwy, Kansas City, MO 64130).