Green Living: Improving Health Today and Tomorrow

Much attention has been paid in recent years to what seems to be a growing environmental conscience in the United States. Going green used to be considered expensive and a luxury for those who could afford the trend. Now it appears that we are learning that not only is adopting more environmentally conscious attitudes good for our economic situation, but also our….health? Yes, if we dig a bit deeper we can see that dirty industries and backwards policy is actually harming the health of the earth for our children and the health of her inhabitants today.

How Does Environmental Policy Affect Public Health?

There are two levels of health consequences associated with dirty industry, both direct and indirect. The direct consequences are examples like increased asthma rates in areas with high smog indices. Chlorofluorocarbon release into the atmosphere has shown to decrease the filter of direct sunlight on the planet, resulting in more concentrated ultraviolet light reaching the surface of the earth. Perhaps it is no surprise then that in countries with depleted atmospheric gas, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

The indirect health consequences are harder to see immediately, but closer examination reveals that these are, in fact, perhaps the most hazardous. Bi-products of dirty and backwards industries, such as coal and oil processing, include cancer causing substances like asbestos and benzene. A U.K. study conducted in 2002 indicated that coal and oil industry workers are at a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma (associated with asbestos exposure) and leukemia (traced to benzene and heavy-metal exposure).  Dr. Valerie Rusch among many other doctors who specialize in this area understand that these are substances that can be directly traced to antiquated pre-regulation equipment in industries whose environmental hazards are even more inherent.

Can we really afford to continue on the path we were on before? Investment in clean industry means not a healthier planet for our children and grandchildren, but also a healthier place for us to live today.

June 18, 2009 Written by Bill Hawthorne with the maacenter

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January is National Radon Month. What is Radon?

Living “green” is about more than just energy efficiency and recycling – it’s also about giving your family a healthier home.  Breathing “greener” air means checking your home for radon, a leading indoor air problem that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Breathing in high levels of radon indoors can lead to lung cancer yet it is easily preventable.  A simple home radon test can tell you if you have a problem. If your home does have a high radon level, there are simple ways to reduce this radioactive gas and make your home’s air safer.

Check out this article EPA: One in 15 Homes in Virginia Have Elevated Levels of Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.It is a colorless, tasteless, odorless radioactive gas that enters your home through cracks and crevices in the foundation.   Decomposition products attach to very small particles in the air which then can be breathed into the lungs, potentially resulting in serious health consequences. National statistics indicate that one in fifteen homes in the U.S. have unacceptable levels of radon. ANY house can contain elevated levels of radon unless there is a functioning radon system in place. It’s not a sign of a bad builder – shifting and settling happens. The only way to know whether your house has unacceptable levels of radon is to have the lowest livable space in the home tested. You may test yourself using kits that are available at home supply stores or seek professional assistance. Winter is the best time to test since doors and windows are kept closed allowing radon concentrations to reach detectable levels. If radon occurs as a result of out gassing from the soil, the most common reason, it can be readily mitigated with ventilation for roughly $1,000. Removal technology is simple and straightforward. It involves blocking points of entry into the lowest livable space in the home and venting areas to the outside using an active circulation system to exhaust basement air. Usually plastic ducting and piping are sufficient, and these low-cost materials help keep total costs low. In a few rare cases, it has been discovered that foundations were made of radioactive mine tailings or other waste materials. In these situations, the costs of radon mitigation become substantially more than $1,000.

More Articles on This Topic:U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air – Radon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: A Citizen’s Guide to Radon 

This is a Press release from the EPA

Release date: 01/05/2009

Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543, smith.bonnie@epa.gov

PHILADELPHIA (January 5, 2009) – – Radon doesn’t have to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. By testing for radon and taking any needed preventive steps you can protect yourself and your family from this health threat.
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is an invisible, tasteless, radioactive gas that can become trapped indoors. When you breathe air containing radon, you are exposing yourself to the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is found all over the country and in any type of building including homes, offices, and schools. Because we spend most of our time indoors at this time of year, this is the best time to test our homes for radon.

While many health challenges are tough to solve and expensive, testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. For $20 you can buy a “do-it-yourself” radon test kit at a hardware store or retail outlet. Many of us had our homes tested when they were purchased, but that may have been 20 years ago. EPA recommends you get your home tested every five years, since foundations can shift over time.

If your test shows high levels of radon, confirm with another test and fix the problem. A high radon level might be lowered with a straight-forward radon venting system installed by a contractor. Mitigation costs generally run from $1,000 to $2,500. In new homes, builders can easily and economically include radon-resistant features during construction, and home buyers should ask for these. EPA also recommends that home buyers ask their builder to test for radon before they move in.

EPA estimates that one in 15 homes will have a radon level of four picocuries per liter of air or more, a level the agency considers high. Based on the national radon map, all of the mid-Atlantic states – – Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware – – have areas with elevated radon levels.

For more information about radon contact our regional website at: http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/Indoor/radon.htm or contact our national website at http://www.epa.gov/radon or call 1-800-SOS-RADON (767-7236).

You can also reach your state radon office on-line or by phone at:

Delaware Health and Social Services Administration at 302-739-4731
Maryland calls go to EPA Region 3 at 215-814-2086
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at 717-783-3594
Virginia Radiological Health Programs at 804-786-5932
Washington D.C. Department of Public Health at 202-535-2999
West Virginia Radiological Health Program at 304-558-6716

January is National Radon Action Month: http://www.epa.gov/radon/nram/public.html

If you live in a single family home or an older ground floor condo please get your home tested! Contact your local state Radon contact to find out how to obtain inexpensive test kits or to find a local radon specialist.