On Tuesday, Kenyon announced that over winter break, 47 on-campus apartments were tested for the carcinogen radon, an odorless, radioactive gas found in most American households. The results are concerning.
In a series of emails on Tuesday, the Office of Residential Life notified residents of affected apartments of their test results. Shortly after, a news bulletin was released to make the broader Kenyon community aware. These communications shared a summary of the testing results, stating that the median concentration among apartments with elevated levels was 24.15 pCi/L, much above the level considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, 4.0 pCi/L. It also stated that they have contracted with experts to form a large-scale testing and remediation program. In an effort of transparency and continued communication, Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability Ian Smith provided open hours for those with questions or concerns to visit his office, as did the office of Residential Life.
The deleterious effects of radon appear after around 20 years of repeated and heightened exposure, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The most prominent result of consistent exposure to radon is the increased risk of lung cancer. While as students we are only passing through these living spaces for a relatively brief period of time, College employees — like maintenance and custodial staff members — may stick around much longer. Those are the community members for whom we are truly concerned.
While we commend the administration’s hasty and comprehensive response currently, the fact remains that these heightened radon levels have gone unaddressed for years — dating back to 1989 — as reported in this week’s Collegian news coverage. The College’s failure to consistently monitor the dangerous levels of radon over the last several decades is an untenable oversight that may have jeopardized the health of faculty and staff. The College must follow through in their plans for transparent and efficient remediation efforts — no matter the cost. It is the bare minimum, especially when considering the invaluable work that faculty and staff do to keep campus thriving.
Considering the length of time that students must be exposed to heightened levels of radon for it to have tangible carcinogenic effects, it is paramount that students do not panic — there is simply no need — but that does not mean that the College’s laissez-faire attitude toward it in years past is excusable.
Salvatore, Amelia and Reid
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Amelia Carnell ’23 and Salvatore Macchione ’23 and executive director Reid Stautberg ’23. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
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