Living Green Starts From the Ground Up

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Tompkins Weekly 1/9/2012
By Carole Fisher

Is a green home necessarily a healthy home? Recently, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) looked at some of the national green building and indoor air quality guidelines to see how they compared against the NCHH healthy housing principles. Their report states that “while all the programs have components aimed at improving resident health, many are missing critical elements” such as injury prevention and protection from contaminants such as lead, radon, and pesticides.

Most communities rely on residential housing codes for protection of residents from health and safety hazards, but some of the factors that influence indoor air quality are often not addressed.  As noted above, even homes that pass some green building qualifications do not require builders to address all potential health hazards.
One of those potential indoor air hazards is the presence of radon, an odorless gas that can seep into your home from the surrounding soil. Radon gas enters through cracks and openings—such as doors, windows, and plumbing—on the lower levels of your home.
Why should you be concerned? While levels in outdoor air pose little threat to health, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels inside buildings. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the number one cause among non-smokers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon causes more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the country each year.
What can you do? The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that all homes in the U.S. be tested for radon. Testing your house for radon is easy to do. Find out how to do a simple home radon test at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Radon Action Event, January 19th, from 3:30 to 5:30pm at 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca. Free radon test kits will be given to the first 50 people. Others will receive an order form for a discounted radon test kit. If your house has a radon problem, you can take steps to fix it. Take action and encourage your friends and family members to do the same!

Carole Fisher is an Extension Educator in Consumer Education and Food Safety at CCE-Tompkins.

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