High levels of cancer-causing radon gas found in KC elementary school but parents not notified

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Parents and staffers at one local elementary school say there's something foul in the air.

A statement from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed high levels of radon gas at Warford Elementary School. Hickman Mills School District leaders said they received the results of an inspection that took place in October late last week.

Radon gas is colorless and odorless, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it's the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The Missouri health department provides free radon inspection for schools in the Show-Me State, using grant money from the EPA. That agency said Hickman Mills Superintendent Yolanda Cargile invited radon inspectors into the school in October when 465 of the district's rooms were tested.

Twenty-seven of them were found to have radon levels that were more than five times higher than the EPA's mitigation level.

Sara O'Connor, a spokesperson for Missouri DHSS, said those 27 rooms showed elevations as high as 21.4 picocurie per liter. The EPA's guidelines call for action to be taken at only 4 picocurie per liter.

FOX4 News learned of the inspection when a staff member shared an email, which was sent from Warford's acting principal Zora Durham to the school's staff, informing them of the inspection's results and that radon detectors had been installed in the school.

"Many teachers shared concerns when a representative from the company that installed (the detectors) shared the readings," Durham's email said. "If you have or will Google radon, you will find that it could be a health hazard."

A spokesperson from the Hickman Mills School District told FOX4 the levels aren't high enough to make students or staff members sick without extended exposure to the gas. The statement from Missouri DHSS seems to support the district's stance.

"A child’s exposure in a particular classroom represents only an estimated 12 percent of their time in school over a full year compared with 75 percent of their time spent at home," O'Connor's statement said.

An assistant principal at Warford Elementary School said the radon gas "had been a problem for a long time."

FOX4 heard from several parents regarding the radon gas, all of whom said they're fearful and want the problem cleaned up. Those parents also complained the district had not made them aware of the radon gas problem at the school.

"If something is bad for their health, this is the worst thing that can happen," said Irena Singleton, whose grandson attends Warford Elementary.

Singleton said she's going to pay attention to what is done to solve the radon problem.

"If something comes to the health of our kids, that has to be number one," she said.

According to the school district's statement, the district has received grant money for radon gas removal at Warford Elementary School. However, a date for that procedure was not given to FOX4, and the Missouri health department didn't initially respond to follow-up questions sent Wednesday via email.