Elliott & Associates Helps a School Reduce Cancer Risk

In 2014, there was a growing concern at Pleasantdale Elementary School in La Grange, IL about the number of teachers that had been diagnosed with cancer. As of April, 2014 nine staff members at the school had been diagnosed with cancer.

Members of the Teachers Association of Pleasantdale raised concerns about the health and safety of staff and asked that the district investigate risk factors, including but not limited to water quality, asbestos, mold and radon.

Air quality investigations were conducted and found that there were some minor areas for improvements, but no link could be established between the building’s air quality and cancer among staff members.

Despite the report clearing the school, Pleasantdale District 107 took action to lessen reports of odors and other health concerns, such as air flow in the elementary building.

The school conducted radon testing and some areas of the school were found to have elevated levels of radon. Concerns were raised about radon gas levels at the elementary school and some classrooms, offices and the school gym were vacated and measures were taken to reduce radon in those areas.

Elliott & Associates was hired to install six radon mitigation systems. Radon testing conducted after the installation showed safe levels of radon for the staff and students.

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What a homeowner had to do to make our competitor's system quieter

Noise Is Not Your Friend

So, you thought all radon systems are quiet? Take a look at what one homeowner had to do to try to fix the excessive noise that was coming from one of our competitor’s systems.

This system was so loud, it could be heard inside the house, making the homeowner wrap the fan up as seen in the photo. We were called after the installer of the system could not fix the issue.

The following items are what is wrong with this system:

  1. Metal downspout is used as the exhaust. PVC pipe as the exterior exhaust will always be the quietest system.
  2. Exhaust is attached to the house using minimum standards. The fastener that supports the pipe on the house should be insulated with rubber.
  3. The suction point is located too close to the groundwater sump pit. This creates a potential scenario where too much air gets introduced into the system via exterior drain tiles. Extra, unnecessary air creates more noise.

There are two noises that are generated by the radon system: air flow and vibration. To minimize the noise, the following must be taken into consideration:

  • The amount of CFM (cubic feet of air per minute)
  • The size of the pipe determines how much airflow can be pushed through the system. The best standard would that the air velocity should not be greater than 700 FPM (feet per minute).
  • Excessive noise and back pressure is created when too much air is moved through the pipe. According to the best standard, a 3” pipe should move no more than 34 CFM before the system is too noisy and loses efficiency. A 4” pipe should move no more than 61 CFM, before it too becomes too noisy. The proper sizing of the pipe is important to avoid excessive noise and reduced radon reduction.

Two ways to reduce vibration transfer back to the building is the install a total of four anti-vibration reducing rubber couplings instead of only two. Also, wrap each fastener that supports the exhaust with rubber to reduce the amount of vibration transfer back to the building.

Cleaning the fan blades will also help to keep the fan balanced so that increase vibration does not occur. This should be performed by a licensed radon professional.

The takeaway: Larger diameter pipe and a carefully installed system is best for a good night’s sleep!

How to Avoid or Fix Frozen Pipes

How to Avoid or Fix Frozen Pipes

A frozen pipe is a disaster nobody wants to deal with, but extreme cold can leave anyone’s home vulnerable.

Strong winds, like the weather Northeastern Illinois will experience this week, can make pipes more susceptible to freezing. It makes it more likely that a draft will enter a home and drop the temperature further.

But there are several ways to winterize your pipes:

  1. Close garages – If there are pipes in your garage, make sure to keep the door closed to conserve heat.
  2. Open cabinets – Opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets will allow warmer air to circulate to the pipes.
  3. Let water drip – Let cold water drip from any faucets that are served by exposed pipes.
  4. Leave the heat on – If you plan on being out of town, make sure you do not turn the heat down.
  5. Insulate – As a long-term solution, add insulation to attics, basements, crawl spaces and other areas with housing pipes that are not climate-controlled.

If a pipe manages to freeze and burst despite all your efforts, be cautious when thawing, as water will begin to drip from the broken area. Additionally, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve before thawing broken pipes. Here are a few ways to thaw frozen pipes quickly:

  1. Turn on the faucet – As cold as it may be, running water through the pipe will help it thaw.
  2. Apply heat – Using small handheld appliances such as a hairdryer, electric heating pad or portable space heater, apply gentle heat to the frozen pipes. You can also wrap pipes with towels soaked in warm water.
  3. Call a plumber – If you are unable to identify the frozen area, it is best to call a professional. A licensed plumber will be able to find the frozen area, fix any bursts, and thaw the pipes.
Asbestos Danger

Safety First

I can’t believe that one of our competitors doesn’t value their clients’ safety or the safety of their technicians. In the first month of 2019, I feel compelled to share this story.

The safety of family or individuals is always first over the gain of a dollar. During a recent visit for a radon mitigation estimate for a real estate sale in Wheaton, IL, I was able to visually look into an accessible dirt crawl space through a window. I easily discovered vermiculite on the floor of the crawl space. According to the EPA, vermiculite should be treated as asbestos containing material and should not be disturbed.

Sealing the floor of the crawl space would disturb the vermiculite and would expose the family and technicians to asbestos. Vermiculite would be inadvertently pulled by the technicians from the crawl space, into the basement & throughout the house! Also, the radon mitigation system will collect the asbestos in the crawl and contaminate the outside yard with asbestos. I informed the client of my concerns.

I made a call to the client and they informed me that the other radon company did not mention this safety concern and was going to seal the dirt crawl space anyway. I was shocked. In my eyes, the contactor’s reputation is ruined. The realtor’s reputation is also ruined, who depends on their reputation to open doors for them.

We train our technicians to identify asbestos building products such as vermiculite, thermal spray-on insulation, exterior siding, transite paneling, etc. We train our employees on what the proper procedures are and that safety is always first.

I understand that cost is important. Please remember when hiring a contractor you should also look at the safety of the family during and after the system is installed.

How Radon Enters the Home

Reducing the Risk From Radon: A Guide for Healthcare Providers

The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, Inc., has developed a new guide for health care providers titled Reducing the Risk From Radon: Information and Interventions. This guide was designed to furnish health care providers with the information they need to reduce their patients’ exposures to radon. Radon is estimated to cause about 21,100 lung cancer deaths per year and is the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality in the United States.

This guide has the latest information on:

  • Radon statistics and public health impact.
  • The science behind the risk estimates.
  • Radon testing and reduction.
  • Sample guidance for use in health care settings.
  • The role of health care providers in reducing the burden of radon-induced lung cancer.


Reducing Risk From Radon: Information and Interventions

Don’t Let Spring Rain On Your Parade

Spring rain is a part of life in many areas, and there’s little you can do to stop it. However, what you can do is protect your home and make sure it doesn’t cost you a lot of money in damages. Use these tips to make sure your house is prepared for the downpour that’s on its way.

  • Check your roof, windows, attic vents, chimneys, windows and doors for any damage. Leaks aren’t just going to damage your home through the roof, so take the time to walk around and inspect all possible areas.
  • Clean your gutters or have your landscaping or gardening service make sure that they’re clear. Gutters that are too full with leaves and debris can damage your roof and create costly repairs for you this spring. Leaves are mostly likely to have gathered during the late fall and winter, too.
  • Check the foundation carefully. Take time to clear away debris.  If necessary, add fill dirt. Note any areas of cracking
  • Check appliances to make sure they’re properly connected. Think of this as a spring cleaning tip – water damage from those appliances can damage your home worse than the rain.
  • Inspect your trees. The heavy winter snows may have damaged your trees, and any maintenance repairs should be done as quickly as possible before expected spring storms arrive.
Radon Number One Cancer Killer of Women

Women’s Lung Health Barometer

As the #1 cancer killer of women, lung cancer takes the lives of more women than any other cancer. Yet, according to the American Lung Association’s 3rd annual Women’s Lung Health Barometer — a survey of over 1,000 American adult women that measures their awareness, knowledge and perceptions about lung cancer — 98 percent of women do not have lung cancer on their health radar. Awareness is critical because if lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of survival more than triples. Read More

 

Read the Media Summary

View the Infographic

Radon on the periodic table

Is It Safe To Buy a Home With Elevated Radon Levels?

Is it safe to buy a home with an elevated radon level? Yes, says a recent article from Consumer Reports.

Performing a radon test and remediating an issue, if found, should not keep you from owning or selling your home. In many cases, the price of the home can be adjusted during the sale to incorporate the added cost of a radon mitigation system (an average of $1,200).

When installed by a qualified professional, radon systems safely remove the carcinogenic gas, reducing a home’s radon level and creating a healthier environment for the family who lives there.

Read more on the topic here.

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Most of the items listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability. But even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money — and maybe even your life.

  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Store firewood away from home to prevent infestations by termites and other insects

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

For most people, their home is their largest investment. Maintaining your residence can save thousands in the long run. Here is a helpful list of projects to complete this spring that will help maintain your home and its value.

Gutters and downspouts: Pull leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Reattach gutters that have pulled away from the house. Run a hose on the roof and check for proper drainage. If leaks exist, dry the area and use caulking or epoxy to seal the leak.

Siding: Clean siding with a pressure washer to keep mold from growing. Check all wood surfaces for weathering and paint failure. If wood is showing through, sand the immediate area and apply a primer coat before painting. If paint is peeling, scrape loose paint and sand smooth before painting.

Exterior caulking: Inspect caulking and replace if deteriorating. Scrape out all of the eroding caulk and re-caulk needed area.

Window sills, door sills, and thresholds: Fill cracks, caulk edges, repaint or replace if necessary.

Window and door screens: Clean screening and check for holes to avoid room for bugs to climb in. Patch holes or replace the screen. Tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint. Replace broken, worn, or missing hardware. Wind can ruin screens and frames if they are allowed to flap and move so make sure they are securely fastened. Tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.

Foundation: Check foundation walls, floors, concrete, and masonry for cracking, heaving, or deterioration. If a significant number of bricks are losing their mortar, call a foundation professional.

Roof: Inspect roof surface flashing, eaves, and soffits. Check flashings around all surface projections and sidewalls.

Deck and porches: Check all decks, patios, porches, stairs, and railings for loose members and deterioration. Open decks and wood fences need to be treated every 4-6 years, depending on how much exposure they get to sun and rain. If the stain doesn’t look like it should or water has turned some of the wood a dark grey, it’s time to treat your deck and fence.

Landscape: Cut back and trim all vegetation and overgrown bushes from structures. Limbs and leaves can cut into your home’s paint and force you to have that side of the house repainted. A little trimming can save a lot of money and time.

Sprinklers: Check lawn sprinkler system for leaky valves, exposed lines, and improperly working sprinkler heads. If there is an area of your yard that collects too much water or doesn’t get enough, run the sprinklers to figure out the problem. If it’s not something you can fix yourself, call a professional before your lawn needs the water.

Clean your dryer vent: Lint can escape your dryer vent and get stuck in the dryer trap. Cleaning out the dryer trap and vent can save you money by reducing dryer times. In addition to saving you money, it will also prevent house fires caused by clogged vents.

Fix cracks in walkways and driveways: Inspect driveway and walkways for cracks and loose particles in the structure. Cracks can be easily sealed before they become costly repairs and unsafe.

Touch up painted areas. Do a checkup on painted areas inside and outside of home for peeling or chipped paint areas. These touchups keep the home looking fresh and can protect the home from further damage.

Attic: Check your attic for proper ventilation and birds’ nests. Look for obstructions over vents, damaged soffit panels, roof flashing leaks and wet spots on insulation. Keeping a good airflow will save you when it comes to cooling costs.

Drainage: Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil.