The invisible killer

Test your home for carcinogenic radon gas; plus, manufactured homes go green

Watch out for Mr. Radon!

Watch out for Mr. Radon!

Beware the invisible radon
January—designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as National Radon Action Month—is almost over. However, it’s not too late to learn about the health hazards of radon—the colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that likes to lurk in mines, caves and houses, particularly basements. It is a product of the decay of uranium, which is generally found in ore-bearing rocks.

Radon, according to an EPA press release, was the nation’s “leading in-home killer” last year, ranking second to smoking as a cause of lung cancer.

A nuclear-plant worker from Pennsylvania named Stanley J. Watras first discovered the danger of in-home radon in 1984 when he found he had been inhaling the radon equivalent of smoking 135 packs of cigarettes a day.

Nearly one out of 15 American homes has high-level indoor radon, according to the EPA; in-home radon levels can vary from room to room, depending on ventilation.

Though Butte County has a low potential for elevated in-home radon levels, the EPA advises that “[a]ll homes should be tested regardless of geographic location.”

Locally, Collier Hardware carries do-it-yourself, in-home radon test kits for $12.99. Test kits are also available by mail through the California Department of Public Health’s Radon Program for $7:

Go to for more info.

The green “i-house”

PHOTO Courtesy of clayton homes

The i-house
I received a press release recently from a company called Clayton Homes, a big name in the manufactured-home industry. It spoke of the green-ness of the houses the company produces.

Curious, I spoke by phone with Brent Barnard, who, as zone manager for Clayton Homes, includes California in the Western U.S. territory he oversees. We quickly got on the subject of the “i-house” (pictured), Clayton’s signature green house that debuted in mid-2009.

The i-house, Barnard explained, gets its name from the home’s physical “footprint”—“one longer unit with a ‘modular pod’ at the top, like the dot of an ‘i’.” The pod can be, say, a bedroom with a bathroom, said Barnard.

Selling for approximately $100,000, the home has such green features as a rooftop rainwater catchment system, dual-flush toilets, bamboo flooring, composite decking made of “80 to 90 percent” recycled material, low-emissivity windows and an energy-efficient Mitsubishi HVAC system, as well as an optional full solar-panel array.

Barnard said his company has “taken the ideas from the i-house and extended them to other core products.” For instance, low-E windows are now standard on all Clayton homes, with solar as an option. Also, the EPA-certified Energy Star facilities producing Clayton’s homes “can construct an entire house and have less than a 50-gallon trash can of waste” left over, in part because of material-saving techniques such as “finger-joining” in order to make use of small pieces of lumber that might otherwise be thrown away.

Barnard confirmed that there are presently no i-houses in Chico, but anyone interested in purchasing one, or any of Clayton’s other, less-expensive green homes, should go to for more info, including the location of Clayton’s Chico dealers, Golden Pacific Homes and Executive Homes.

Acknowledging climate change
Rapid Climate Change: Causes, Consequences and Solutions, the brand-new book by Chico State sociology professor (and former executive director of the university’s Institute for Sustainable Development) Scott McNall, is available locally at sustainability-friendly Lyon Books.