Fracking has allowed the U.S. to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of oil and gas. This process, though, has long been thought to cause environmental pollution. Now, scientists are taking a closer look at the chemicals in groundwater in order to assess whether or not fracking is polluting the environment as much as environmentalists claim.
Fracking is a process of oil and gas extraction that includes pumping water and chemicals into a casing that's inserted into the ground. The pressure from this mixture forces cracks in the rock below the surface. These cracks create passages for oil and natural gas to flow; the resources are then extracted. The wastewater created from this process, though, is what has most environmentalists worried.
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.
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.”
The Northwestern Health Unit is advising homeowners of potential radon gas in their homes. Public health inspector Rick Pascoe says a recent study shows the presences of radon gas in northwestern Ontario.
"There were some recent studies done in Ontario that indicated the stretch of the road between Dryden, Kenora and the Manitoba border seems to be a high spot for radon gas. We're ranked third in the province for lung cancer deaths due to radon gas," he said.
He notes radon gas comes from the breakdown of uranium, which creates an invisible, scentless and tasteless gas. Pascoe says they're hoping to get the message out to the public, as radon gas can often accumulate in homes during the winter.
"Now is the time when people tend to close their doors and not open their doors. Over the winter, radon gas can basically build up in a basement to a much higher level than in summer when doors and windows are open," he said.
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."
Several colorless, odorless gases can injure your health. For example, carbon monoxide can kill you in minutes. Radon takes longer — usually decades — to kill you, and (fortunately) death is less certain.
People who have lived for many years in a house with elevated levels of radon gas have a higher than average chance of getting lung cancer. Because of this risk, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises homeowners to test the air in their homes for the presence of radon. If testing reveals radon at levels above 4 picocuries per liter, you should probably arrange for a contractor to install a radon mitigation system in your house.
How does radon get into a house?
More than 35 percent of homes tested in Porter County and more than 15 percent of homes in tested in Lake County had elevated levels of radon gas (4.0 pCi/l or more), according to a local home inspection company.
Phil Borkstrom and family have owned and operated Schererville-based Home Inspector Consultants for the last two decades, specializing in residential and commercial radon testing.
“The amount of residential radon testing we perform each year increases as people become more and more aware of its presence in homes,” Borkstrom said. “It's still not where it should be because we feel if everyone was aware of radon then every house, school and commercial building would be tested.”
The US EPA and Surgeon General share the same opinion on radon testing, and it's easy to understand why.
A dangerous gas is seeping into homes throughout Steele County — a gas that carries adverse health effects — and the homeowners may not be aware of it.
According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, high levels of radon — an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that has been known to cause lung cancer — are present in 67 percent of the homes in Steele County.
Two-thirds of the homes in Steele County have levels of at least 4 picocuries per liter. A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, an international unit of measurement for radioactivity. Dan Tranter, supervisor of the Indoor Air Unit at the state’s health department, said radon poses a risk to those living in high concentrations.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is a pro at using screensavers to get out life-saving messages to their employees, so when they decided to promote radon testing they knew exactly how to reach their staff. KDHE installed a default PowerPoint on each computer that automatically scrolls through a variety of photos and graphics when a computer is briefly unused. The PowerPoint image that each staff member saw on their computer read “Test Your Home. Protect Your Health.”
Click here to view the PowerPoint.
After implementing the screensaver, many KDHE employees inquired about to get test kits more information about radon. It was a successful, free outreach method that educated KDHE’s staff about the danger of radon and got them into action to protect their families.