DES MOINES (AP) — Schools would be required to test for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that can leak through cracks in building foundations, under legislation that passed the Iowa Senate on Wednesday.
The bill won bipartisan support, passing through the Senate 37-13. It now moves to the House. It would require public and private schools to test for the gas and install a system to expel it from buildings. It also would require residential construction companies to install pipes to extract the gas from homes built after Jan. 1, 2015.
Bill sponsor Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said it would be negligent for lawmakers to do nothing to protect Iowa residents from radon.
“There are times when government really needs to step in and mandate something,” he said. “When something is causing cancer and killing individuals, in most cases unbeknownst to them, I think we have an obligation to make sure that when new construction occurs that we’re taking these minimum steps.”
Home buyers and school districts would be responsible for paying for testing and mitigation. Public schools could raise taxes to pay for the process.
Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, said he’s concerned that some private schools couldn’t afford to install a radon system but would be expected to comply with the law even though they couldn’t raise tax money.
“Those children also deserve to have a healthy environment to be in,” he said.
Mitigation systems can cost $3,000 to $15,000 per building, said Rick Welke, the radon program manager at the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA also says Iowa’s 99 counties are in the agency’s highest risk zone for gas exposure.