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Drive to improve housing can bring unintended consequences

The UK is one of only a handful of countries that has put in place legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. How the country intends to go about meeting these targets is another matter entirely.

Until now, the government has seen improving the energy efficiency of millions of British homes as low hanging fruit that can provide easy emissions reductions. And housing is certainly a major contributor, generating 27% of the country’s total emissions.

Improving insulation, making homes airtight, and introducing smart energy meters are all part of the government’s plan. Huge sums of money are currently being invested on refurbishing properties, which while preferable to wholesale demolition, needs to be guided by well-rounded policies. The latest approach for funding these changes is through the Green Deal, a loan attached to a house paid back through its energy bills.

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.

DEQ Urges Homeowners to Test for Radon

January is Radon Awareness Month, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is urging Montanans to protect their health by testing their homes for radon gas.

Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that occurs naturally from the decay of uranium and radium in many Montana soils and can accumulate inside homes. Studies indicate elevated levels of the gas are the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Nationally, more than 22,000 people each year die from lung cancer linked to exposure to radon.

In Montana, historic radon testing shows that radon gas is present in varying levels in homes throughout the state. The amount of radon depends largely on the underlying geology of the area. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies 4.0 pCi/L as the "action level" for radon.

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.

Testing the Water is Important for Household Well Owners

The National Ground Water Association recommends household well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrate, and any contaminants of local concern.

More frequent testing should be considered if:

  • There is a change in the taste, odor, or appearance of the well water, or if a problem occurs such as a broken well cap, inundation by floodwaters, or a new contamination source
  • The well has a history of bacterial contamination
  • The septic system has recently malfunctioned
  • Family members or house guests have recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness
  • An infant is living in the home
  • One wishes to monitor the efficiency and performance of home water treatment equipment.

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.”

7 Reasons to Consider Indoor Air-Quality Testing

Air isn't as light as it seems. It's pushing on your skin right now with up to 15 pounds of pressure per square inch, a weight so familiar you can't feel it. Your lungs feel it, though, especially when it's bogged down with toxins. And while we tend to think of air pollution as an outdoor threat, it can be even worse inside the buildings where we live and work.

The causes of indoor air pollution vary from region to region, house to house and even room to room. Contaminated air seeps in from outside, but it also wafts up from a smorgasbord of indoor sources like construction materials, consumer products, mold, insects and pets. Poor ventilation can let it accumulate to dangerous levels, a problem that often spikes in fall and winter as we seal up buildings to conserve heat.

Radon, uranium testing spikes with surge in home sales

For Portland native Kate McCabe, moving from a home hooked into the public water system to one with a private well was as much about having safe drinking water as it was about expanding the space for her growing family. So when the inspector for the house she and her husband planned to buy in North Yarmouth recommended thorough testing of the air and water, McCabe, who has a 2-year-old and another baby on the way, readily agreed. And she's glad she did. The test results showed extremely high air and water radon and water uranium readings, and she almost backed out of the deal.

"I tried to talk to as many people as I could as fast as I could," says McCabe, 35. "I called at least 10 different companies." She decided to negotiate with the sellers to pay for air and water mitigation systems, and after they agreed to pay the nearly $18,000 expense, she agreed to the sale and plans to move in toward the end of September, after the systems are installed.

In Minnesota, Radon is a Diminishing Risk

Perspective means everything when analyzing whether a public health policy is successful or not. So, when it comes to protecting Minnesotans from radon, is the glass half empty or half full?

In “Radon fix leaves some at risk” (July 14), the Star Tribune took one side of a story and presented a gloom-and-doom analysis. We’d like to tell you why the Minnesota Department of Health should be celebrating a successful public-policy solution.