WYTHE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Wythe County schools addressed a group of parents Wednesday night concerned about elevated levels of Radon gas in Spiller and Speedwell elementary schools.
Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer and was declared a national health hazard in 2015.
Superintendent Jeff Perry told parents Wednesday that mitigation methods are now in place to take care of the Radon, but at the same time apologized about how the information was relayed to them in the first place.
Perry admitted Wednesday that the Radon levels, which exceeded double the EPA threshold in one classroom at Spiller Elementary, should have been made more accessible to parents.
"We didn't think it was information that parents may be interested in, even though now, we understand and we use this process as a learning process, and we'll provide more information in the future," said Perry.
Hearing that, one man in the George Wythe Auditorium Wednesday, Stacey Terry, says he was only partially reassured.
"I'm confident they're taking the right steps to mitigate it. I'm not confident with them really listening to the facts about the danger of Radon," said Terry.
The school system sent out a release Monday, stating exposure at these levels for 18 hours a day over 70 years could produce health issues.
Terry says he thinks the effects could be more harmful than that.
"They're right, there's no short-term effects. The big effects you've got to worry about is down the road when cancers start to develop. That's the biggest effects," said Terry.
The EPA website confirms more than 20 thousand people die from lung cancer brought on by Radon exposure every year.
WSLS consulted with a Radon specialist with the company Roanoke Radon, Nathan Collogan.
He says the concern of Radon exposure could be higher in children.
"In my opinion, children's lungs are being developed, and if they're exposed to that Radon, that could be more of a harm, harmful factor on them than as you and I as an adult," said Collogan.
According to the EPA, children have been reported to have a greater risk than adults, but there is no conclusive data.
Now, Perry says the schools have kicked into action, replacing a defective fan at Spiller Elementary and mitigating the gas at Speedwell.
"Within a two week period of time, we have done a lot of things already to insure that we've got things in place to take care of the problem," said Perry.
The schools plan to test again at the end of the month to ensure the levels have gone down to below the EPA safety threshold.
Perry says the school system is prepared to release more information about Radon testing in the future so parents will know if the problem ever comes up again.