Healthy Schools and Apartments Not an Option at Code Hearings


Radon Measure for Schools and Apartment Buildings Fails at Code Hearings

Columbia, Maryland (December 3, 2012) – During a national meeting of code officials in Portland in October, a majority of the participants voted in favor of a proposal to require radon resistant construction in schools and apartment buildings. But the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to make the measure a code requirement in high risk areas.  

Only The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the National Multi-Housing Council, and one code official testified against the new protections from radon.  

“I expected more from the NAHB,” said Claire Barnett, executive director of the Healthy Schools Network. “The families they sell to and the parents we talk to surely care deeply about children’s exposures to radon at home and at school.”

The American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, Cancer Survivors Against Radon (CanSAR), and the American Association of Radiation Scientists and Technologists voiced support for the proposal. Marlene McEwen of CanSAR said, "Having lost my husband to radon induced lung cancer eight years ago, it is very important that we all work together to educate the public about this deadly gas. Reducing radon in homes, public buildings and schools is crucial to save lives.  I am encouraged by the number of people who voted to make building code changes."

Radon is the leading cause of death from lung cancer among non-smokers –  resulting in an estimated 22,000 deaths each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

Once enacted, the requirement for a radon reduction system will reduce risk of lung cancer for students in new schools and families in new apartment buildings in 1,000 high risk counties, which represent 34% of all US counties.

“Radon-resistant new construction is cheap insurance for a builder from the standpoint of liability and providing a healthier indoor living environment,” said Steve Tucker, a Portland-area builder and mitigation specialist. “It is a straight-forward, low-cost application.”

When the radon proposal was first introduced in May 2012, the International Building Code committee voted it down with recommendations for refining the language. The authors of the proposals made the changes recommended by the committee. The housing industry opponents cited insufficient data specific to apartment buildings and schools in their opposition to the requirements.  

“Radon doesn’t distinguish between schools, apartments, or single-family homes. Building science tells us that it will migrate into any building if proper building practices are not followed,” said Jane Malone, Policy Director for the National Center for Healthy Housing.

In response to America's need for a single set of consistent construction regulations, the International Code Council (ICC) developed, through the governmental consensus process, the first set of coordinated and comprehensive construction and fire codes for use nationwide in 1995. More U.S. cities, counties, and states that adopt and enforce codes choose the International Codes developed by the International Code Council over any other code products.

The ICC has an open multi-step process where anyone can submit a proposal to ICC to revise a code. The proposal is considered by a committee and accepted or denied, with or without modifications. The public may comment on the committee's decision and is free to re-propose the same proposal or revise it for consideration by the full assembly. Proposals accepted by the committee need a majority vote by the full assembly, while resubmitted or revised proposals require a two-thirds majority vote.

About the National Center for Healthy Housing:
The National Center for Healthy Housing is the preeminent nonprofit dedicated to creating safe and healthy housing for America’s families. It has trained over 35,000 individuals in lead-safe and healthy housing practices since 2005, and its research provides the scientific basis for major federal policies and programs. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low- income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children. Learn more at You can also follow NCHH on Twitter @nchh or become a fan on Facebook at

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