Local Group Urges Radon Testing in Homes

Radon occurs naturally in dirt and a variety of rocks. Granite is one popular stone that can contain high levels of randon. One Houston-based group tests commerical-grade granite to see if it’s safe for installation in homes. Laurie Johnson has more.


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Radon is a naturally occurring odorless, colorless, radioactive gas.
And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon causes at least 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.

It’s a bigger problem in the Northeast and Midwest than it is here in Texas.
But the rising popularity of natural stone floors and granite countertops has
the folks at BuildClean concerned.

BuildClean is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of safe,
environmentally-friendly building products.

BuildClean Vice President Ashlei Ayer says just because a product like granite
is natural does not mean it’s safe.

“Our question was initially when we started this project out, if granite is emitting high levels of radon and you’re in a contained area in your home how is that affecting your health.”

So the organization is conducting free radon testing for homeowners.
Elyse Kalmans lives in Bellaire.
Her family moved into their home several years ago.
The house already had granite counters installed in the kitchen.

“I went to college on the East Coast so was a little bit familiar with people who had problems with radon, and it never occurred to me that it could be an issue here in Texas.”

Kalmans has three young daughters and says that prompted her decision to
have her home tested.

“You know you assume things that are natural and come from the earth and aren’t processed — you assume they’re good. But you don’t stop to think about what the potential downside is. And I of course had the panic that I was going to have to rip out my whole kitchen.”

Those drastic measures weren’t called for.
The highest radon results for Kalmans’ home were measured at
0.6 picoCuries per liter.
The EPA recommends mitigation when radon reaches between
two and four picoCuries.
Anything over four is considered hazardous.

But Ashlei Ayer says they’ve tested some granite slabs with levels as high as 25.
And she says the building industry isn’t required to conduct radon testing.

“The testing can be done, it’s not common for it to be done right now. The industries are not out there doing it. I think the more consumers ask for it to be done, the more it’s going to push the market towards having it done and it being just a natural thing.”

BuildClean offers free testing for a limited number of homes.
Do it yourself test kits are also available and Houston has a number of professional radon inspectors.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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