Section: News

Campus-wide radon testing shows generally safe levels

Universal radon testing of campus residences yielded “generally low” results, Kenyon announced on March 22. Testing of all student residences — including the initial tests of the North Campus Apartments (NCAs), where elevated levels were first detected — revealed that 70% of student residences have radon levels below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), the level at which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests mitigation. Additionally, the College announced that mitigation at the NCAs is complete, and testing is ongoing in non-residential buildings. 

Testing of all campus residences began in February, when highly elevated levels of the carcinogen radon were detected in the NCAs. The readings in these apartments had a median of 24.15 pCi/L, more than six times the level considered safe by the EPA. This prompted student outcry and a campus-wide testing regimen

The recent announcement from Kenyon states that the median reading for all tests on campus was 1.65 pCi/L. Of the elevated results, most were below the highly elevated levels measured at the NCAs. Of all the results across campus above the EPA’s safe level, 63% were between 4 and 20 pCi/L. Three test results yielded results above 80 pCi/L.

According to Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability Ian Smith, elevated levels of radon didn’t follow any clear pattern. “Radon levels depend on many factors and are unpredictable, varying quite a bit even between two buildings side-by-side, which is why we decided to test all campus buildings, rather than rely on any perceived patterns,” he explained in an email to the Collegian. Any building with readings above 4 pCi/L will have an active radon mitigation system installed.

While this round of results was comforting, radon testing is not over. Follow-up testing will occur 30 days after mitigation systems are installed in buildings that yielded high readings. In the long term, the College will also implement routine radon testing for all campus buildings. 

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