State agencies launch "health house" pilot program in Savoy

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SAVOY--State officials are working to rid houses of cancer-causing gases by pushing local contractors to build "healthy homes" from the ground up.

With an estimated 1200 people in Illinois losing their lives to radon-related lung cancer each year, state agencies and local contractors are partnering up to reduce the risk from inside the home.

It's an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can build up beneath the basement floor. And homes across Illinois are testing positive for elevated levels of radon, the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

"EPA action level for radon are at four picocuries per liter," said Angela Tin, vice president of environmental health for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest. "Champaign County has an average home radon concentration of five picocuries per liter."

By law, all new homes in Illinois must be built with a pipe running from the foundation through the roof--or what is called a passive mitigation system--allowing air to pass through and suck the harmful gas up and out. But the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is calling on contractors to take a more active approach to getting rid of radon.  

"That motor fan up in the attic continues pulling that so now 24/7 you are pulling those gases from underneath the basement floor," said Doug Johnson, of Champaign-based Ironwood Homes.

The IEMA and the American Lung Association are collaborating with two builders from Champaign and a mitigation contractor from Heyworth, to include these active mitigation systems in every new home they build. On Wednesday, they launched the Radon Excellence Program in Savoy, showcasing two homes where that equipment comes standard.
    
"We're trying to encourage builders across the state to build their homes using active mitigation systems," said Patrick Daniels, of the IEMA's Radon Program. "Passive mitigation systems will reduce the source of radon by about 50 percent, and active mitigation studies have shown to reduce the radon concentration 90 to 100 percent."

Active mitigation runs between $600-700 more than just the passive pipe, but contractors say it's small price to pay for a system that could be life-saving.
    
The IEMA and the American Lung Association in Illinois hope to expand the Radon Excellence Program nationwide.
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