After months of negotiations over how far to push to find radon contamination in Iowa schools, a House committee is settling on a bill that merely calls for the Iowa Department of Education to survey schools to find out how many are conducting the tests now. Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, says the go slow approach is preferable.
“Having the discussion, trying to figure out the right path to move forward on, without just jumping the gun and doing something that we didn’t have data on to back us up,” Windschitl says.
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that causes lung cancer. Experts say radon levels could be unacceptable in up to 20 percent of Iowa school buildings. Windschitl says the Department of Education needs to survey the situation and find out how many schools are struggling to pay for equipment that rids buildings of radon.
“That will then give us an opportunity to look at that data, see if there is a problem and then take the next step forward in helping those school districts test and mitigate, if need be,” Windschitl says.
School officials say they’re worried requiring radon tests in school buildings could put some districts in financial peril because if unacceptable levels of radon are found, there’s nothing in current budgets to pay for installing the equipment that fixes the problem.
Last year the Democratically-led Iowa Senate voted not only to force schools to test for radon, but to require radon control systems in any new building or home built in Iowa. The Republican-led House tabled that bill. This year the Senate scaled back the plan, merely requiring schools to conduct radon tests by 2025, but the bill did not require school officials to fix buildings where unacceptable levels of radon gas are discovered. The next step for the radon-in-schools debate is in the Iowa House. The House Local Government Committee approved Windschitl’s approach Wednesday.