I-TEAM: Radon, the invisible killer, could be in your children's school

By  | 

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. (Source: WRDW)

AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) – An invisible killer could be lurking in your children’s school and most likely you would never know about it.

Radon is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It's also the second leading cause of lung cancer.

The EPA considers anything above a four as an unsafe level of radon. We found radon results as high as a 74 in Aiken County. Despite the state keeping track of radon levels, it does not require schools to test for it.

Dorothy Danridge has lost a lot in a lifetime. First, it was her home in Ellenton.

“I was 16 years old,” Danridge said. “I got married at 16.”

Then, it was her family when two sons, two brothers, her husband, and her younger sister all died from cancer.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control or DHEC tracks cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Aiken County.

"Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer and then radon is next,” Dr. Shaheen Islam from Augusta University said.

Radon is a radioactive gas. DHEC tracks levels of it throughout the state. Aiken County is home to the second highest level the state next to Greenville and higher than any level found in Georgia.

Our I-Team asked for radon test results by zip code. Nine out of 24 Aiken County zip codes show high levels of radon. The majority in zip code 29803. One out of 10 houses show levels above what the EPA considers as potentially dangerous.

"Radon exposure has been known to be associated with lung cancer and leukemia. Years of exposure can cause it," Islam said.

What state records don’t show are radon levels found in schools.

EPA estimates more than 70,000 schoolrooms in use today have high short-term radon levels. The EPA strongly urges school districts to test for the dangerous gas but very few do it.

Our I-Team requested a radon test results for all schools in South Carolina.

Only four of the more than 1,200 participated in DHEC’s free radon testing program. None of the participating schools are located in Aiken County.

"The first thing you need to do is to check with the radon meter to see if there is enough radon exposure above the normal limit,” Islam said.

We tested Danridge's home. The EPA states anything above a level four requires action. Her's came back above a five.

Danridge doesn’t fear for herself, meanwhile, but she does fear for her grandchildren.

Anyone in South Carolina -- not just school districts -- can receive a free radon test kit from DHEC. You can get one at Lowe’s or Home Depot if you live in Georgia.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.