1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

November 29, 2008

:334 Radioactive Materials

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:334 EcoTip: Radioactive uranium is sometimes present in rock used for construction. This is more likely when the rocks contain granite, phosphate, pitch-blend or shale. Radioactive aggregate has also been mixed with concrete for foundations. Radon test kits and monitors can be used to determine if radon releasing materials are about to be used in new construction or if they are present in existing buildings.


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :128, :129, :130

The following recounts an experience I had almost two decades ago when inspecting a home a family wanted to purchase. I conducted radon testing with electronic monitors, and found radon levels in the guest bedroom of about 27 picocuries per liter of air (EPA’s action level is 4.0 picocuries). The following excerpt is from Prescriptions for a Healthy House which I co-authored and is now in its third edition:

Upon visual examination of the guest bedroom, it was noted that the headboards for the two beds were made of rock that appeared to be granite. The headboards were later tested with a small Geiger counter. While normal radioactive background levels away from the headboards were approximately 12 radioactive counts per minute, the counts close to the headboards were over 300. It was clear that the headboards were at least one source of radon in the room. The headboards were in fact a decorative granite rock imported from Italy. Each headboard weighed several hundred pounds. The floors and walls had been especially constructed to hold the extra weight. It took six strong men to remove each of the headboards to a detached garage. The radon tests were repeated throughout the home with all values now under 1.0 picocurie. The home was given a radon clearance, contingent upon the proper disposal of the headboards.

This was the first home I ever inspected in which a radon source was caused by a building material or furnishing. Although radon from the soil is the most common cause of elevated radiation levels in a home, there are many other possible sources. Since granite rock is sometimes high in uranium, it must be considered a potential source of radon when used in construction. Rock can be a superb building material, but it should always be tested prior to use for the rare possibility of radiation.

Most U.S. manufacturers of granite rock products are now aware of this problem – but it never hurts to double check. Probably the easiest way for occupants to test stone is to set up a radon test kit or monitor in the room with the stone.

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November 17, 2008

:322 Radon in Water

Filed under: :322 Radon in Water — Tags: , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:21 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:322 EcoTip: Radon doesn’t always enter a home from the soil. Homes on wells or small community based water cooperatives should check their water for radon if elevated levels are identified in the home’s air. In some cases people have spent a few hundred to couple of thousand dollars to unsuccessfully fix their home’s radon problem – only to find out the source was their water – requiring a completely different fix. Municipal systems are required to monitor radiation levels – so they shouldn’t be an issue.


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :128, 129, 130

A variety of methods are available for removing radon from water. One method involves aerating the water and venting the radon gas to the outside before the water is brought into the home. Another method uses activated carbon to “scrub’ the radon from the water. Since the half life of radon is a little less than 4 days, two whole house carbon filters are used and alternated at 4 day intervals. This prevents the radon level from building up too high. 

If you suspect radon in water you can have it tested by contacting National Testing Laboratories.

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May 8, 2008

:129 Prevent Radon Entry

Filed under: :129 Prevent Radon — Tags: , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:07 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:129 EcoTip: Fixing radon problems isn’t a nightmare, provided you do your homework and understand what your doing. EPA has excellent guidance information on how to do-it-yourself as well as choosing a contractor to do it for you.

Source: EPA

The diagram is a composite view of several mitigation options.  The typical mitigation system usually has only one pipe penetration through the basement floor; the pipe may also be installed on the outside of the house.


 Additional Information

EPA states:

Since there is no known safe level of radon, there can always be some risk. But the risk can be reduced by lowering the radon level in your home.

There are several proven methods to reduce radon in your home, but the one primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.  This system, known as a soil suction radon reduction system, does not require major changes to your home.  Sealing foundation cracks and other openings makes this kind of system more effective and cost-efficient.  Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces. Radon contractors can use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.

The cost of reducing radon in your home depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. The average house costs about $1,200 for a contractor to fix, although this can range from about $800 to about $2,500.  The cost is much less if a passive system was installed during construction.

A more detailed description of methods and cost is at: http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html

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March 3, 2008

:063 Photoelectric Smoke Detectors


Suggested Review – none

1:5:10:063 Tip: There are two types of smoke detectors that are commonly used. Ionization smoke detectors contain a radioactive waste product from nuclear power generation. The radioactive material is shielded, but presents a disposal problem. Photoelectric smoke detectors don’t have radioactive material and studies have shown they are more reliable, especially in smokey fires.


Additional Information

Here’s a good article in Mother Earth News that discusses the advantages and disadvantages.



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