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Keeping out drafts could mean more radon risk at home

Sealing up houses to improve energy efficiency also traps more radon inside and may lead to a higher risk of lung cancer, according to a new study based on modeling.

Guidelines suggest people install ventilation systems when they try to reduce heat loss from their homes.

Many energy efficiency measures, like putting draft strips along doorframes, reduce air exchange, study author Paul Wilkinson said.

"Moreover, even where trickle vents (small vents in windows or bricks) are fitted, a proportion will not be used or will be left closed," said Wilkinson, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Radon, a gas produced from naturally occurring uranium in soil and water, is known to increase the risk of lung cancer. It is present in many homes in varying amounts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates radon contributes to about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, mostly among people who smoke.

Greenspace: Too many people still not testing for radon in homes

Radon wasn't always a household word - and for some, it still isn't, although it should be.

Better not to wind up like Stanley and Diane Watras.

In 1984, before anyone knew that the radioactive gas could make its way into homes, and that parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are radon hot spots, Watras set off radiation alarms when he reported for work at the Limerick nuclear power plant, then under construction.

Subsequent investigation focused on his home in Boyertown, Berks County, where technicians found the highest radon levels they had yet seen in the United States - about 675 times the maximum level permitted in a uranium mine.

In a way, he was lucky. He was alerted to a problem he hadn't known he had.

Officials began testing more homes, and household radon testing became a national campaign that continues to this day.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms during the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soils and rocks.

Does your home have high radon?

Does your home have high radon?

January is national radon awareness month. If you do nothing else, at least take a look at the map of radon risk zones above. If your home is in an area shaded red or orange, you may be especially at risk.

What is radon?
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer. Although radon may be released from building materials, in most cases the source is natural radon found in the soils and rock on which your home is built. A house can act like a chimney: warm air rising inside causes a negative pressure in basements or at the slab level. This negative pressure can suck in gases, including radon.

How much radon is dangerous?

A Risk You Can Fix: Protect Your Family’s Health by Testing Your Home for Radon Gas in 2014 / 21,000 Radon-Related Lung Cancer Deaths Each Year

As Americans across the country look for ways to improve their health this New Year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is highlighting radon testing and mitigation as a simple and affordable step to significantly reduce the risk for lung cancer. Radon is a natural colorless, odorless radioactive gas, and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, but testing for radon and reducing elevated levels when they are found can make your home healthier and safer.

“Testing for radon is an easy and affordable way to protect your family’s health,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. ”Radon is a radioactive gas that can be found in homes all across the country; the only way to know if your home has high levels is to test it.”

Part of EPA’s radon action campaign is to remind people to “Test, Fix, Save a Life,” and to recognize every January as radon action month.

Health Notes: Minnesota Law on Radon Tests Takes Effect

Those little radon test kits you can buy in the hardware store probably will be more popular in Minnesota this year.

That’s because of a law that went into effect on Wednesday. It requires home sellers to inform buyers whether their home has been tested for radon. If it has been tested, the level has to be divulged. If mitigation was needed, it has to be reported if that was done.

So reports the Minnesota Department of Health, which notes in a statement the estimate that two of every five Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon.

What does that mean? It’s significant, the health department says, because radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It’s also the leading cause of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke. More than 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are attributed to radon.

Minnesota home buyers/sellers - radon test results to be disclosed

All real estate transactions in Minnesota must add one more disclosure to the list – a radon test and results must be performed. Under the Minnesota Radon Awareness Act, a new law pushed through the 2013 Legislature, disclosure of a test for the existence of radon and results must be available. But wait, there’s more. Sellers who do a radon test, and the test reveals the existence of radon, must also disclose possible remedies.

“Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home,” according to the Environmental Protection

Op/Ed: Radon - is your home raising your lung cancer risk?

Mention radon to most people, and you’ll get a blank stare. But mention lung cancer, and you’ve got their attention!

Most people don’t know that exposure to radon, an invisible odorless gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Pennsylvania is recognized as having a very high risk of radon, so we at the American Lung Association want you to know how to protect your family. A simple test in your home can tell you if you need to take steps to reduce the risk to yourself and your family. November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, is a perfect time to learn more and test your home.

Radon, a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath many homes, keeps itself well hidden. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related.

High Radon Levels in 17 Louth Homes

Seventeen homes in Louth have been found with radon gas levels above the acceptable level in the past year and a half, according to figures released today by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII).

One home in Dundalk had more than four times the acceptable level. This is the highest level of radon found in a home in Louth to date and the occupants were receiving a radiation dose equivalent to more than 1000 chest X-rays per year.

In Louth, 294 tests for radon gas were completed in the past year and a half and of these, 17 were found to be above the acceptable level.

Commenting on the findings, David Fenton, Senior Scientist at the RPII said: “We know that Louth has a particular problem with radon and yet only a fraction of homeowners have tested. Our research shows that, of the homes already tested, there is a large percentage with high radon levels.”

New radon federal testing and mitigation requirements

You won't believe this, but radon is back in the environmental forefront in a big way! As of June, radon testing and mitigation is now required under federal law. HUD's Office of Multifamily Housing's new policy requires radon testing and, if applicable, mitigation for most new FHA-insured construction, conversion and substantial rehabilitation projects, as well as most FHA-insured refinance transactions.

As stated on HUD's website: "Radon is a priority of the Federal Radon Action Plan, developed by a federal government interagency team chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This invisible air hazard in homes is preventable and there are straight-forward, low-cost solutions to protect families against radon risks," said Janet McCabe, EPA principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. "These new HUD policies will better protect thousands of Americans in the years ahead."

About the House: The Inside Scoop About Radon Reduction

For those of you familiar with radon gas and its reduction systems, I’m going to guess you probably are familiar with only one type of mitigation system, the one with a pipe poked into the soil under the basement slab and running that same pipe up and out of the house, terminating somewhere above the eave.

That is the most common system in our area. It may also have an inline fan that runs every hour of every day, which is an active system. That same pipe can often be routed in the same manner, but without the fan assisting the airflow, and is a passive system.

The passive system might be the right type for a simple, open, basement floor plan with the concrete floor in good condition, with minimal cracking and fairly low radon levels. This is also the least expensive system and is generally the type installed in new construction.