Souris parents can add radon to their list of concerns after testing found elevated levels of the cancer causing gas at Souris Consolidated School.
Education Minister Alan McIsaac said the Eastern School District was in contact with the province’s public health officers who in turn contacted Health Canada about the issue.
“Health Canada has said that there’s no real level of concern there and the staff and children are definitely safe and can continue on as is,” he said.
The Eastern School District sent a memo to parents Wednesday telling them test results showed radon levels were higher than the Health Canada guidelines.
Test results showed a room listed as number 105 had a level of 588 becquerels per cubic metre while the school’s lunch room had a level of 386 becquerels per cubic metre.
Health Canada’s guideline sets the acceptable level at 200 becquerels per cubic metre.
The findings came the day after Souris parents protested outside Province House, accusing the government of breaking a promise to build a new Kindergarten to Grade 12 school in the community.
A school construction committee put the cost of a new school at $24.8 million, but has settled for a renovation of the high school with an addition built on after the province gave a firm $20 million commitment for the project.
Students aren’t expected to move in until 2014.
In the memo to parents, superintendent Ricky Hood said work will be done immediately to find the radon source and fix the problem, hopefully by the end of June.
Radon is an invisible, odourless, tasteless gas that can seep into buildings through cracks in the foundation or floor.
Health Canada says studies have linked exposure to certain levels of radon to increased risk of developing lung cancer.
In 2007 Health Canada lowered the guideline level from 800 becquerels per cubic metre.
McIsaac said the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department has hired a company to do work that will stop the radon problem as soon as possible.
“They do this on a regular basis and they’re the officials on it,” he said.
The memo to parents said the province hired certified radon mitigating company Pinchin Leblanc Environmental Limited to do the work.
It’s not the first time testing found higher than acceptable radon levels at Souris Consolidated.
Testing done in 2008 found the highest recorded level in the school was 300 becquerels per cubic metre and remedial action was ordered to be done within two years.
That level was found in the lunch room, while room 105 had a level of 271 becquerels per cubic metre.
A third room also had higher than acceptable levels in 2008.
McIsaac said the radon levels were found as part of regular testing in Island schools, which includes mould and water infiltration checks.
“The big thing is we want to stay on top of it and if you ever see that the numbers go up, hey, let’s get in there and do something because the health and safety of our staff and students is of utmost importance,” he said.
Parents were also recently notified about carbon dioxide levels that were higher than Health Canada’s standards.
Because of those levels the school staff now open all windows in the building four times a day to exchange the air.
Symptoms of high carbon dioxide levels are fatigue, headaches and irritated nasal passages.