Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

ice-damWhat is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

What causes ice dams?

There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover, and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32°F while lower surfaces are below 32°F. For a portion of the roof to be below 32°F, outside temperatures must also be below 32°F. When we say temperatures above or below 32°F, we are talking about average temperature over sustained periods of time.

The snow on a roof surface that is above 32°F will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32°F and freezes. Voila!—an ice dam.

The dam grows as it is fed by the melting snow above it, but it will limit itself to the portions of the roof that are on the average below 32°F. So the water above backs up behind the ice dam and remains a liquid. This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into the attic space. From the attic it could flow into exterior walls or through the ceiling insulation and stain the ceiling finish.

What causes different roof surface temperatures?

Since most ice dams form at the edge of the roof, there is obviously a heat source warming the roof elsewhere. This heat is primarily coming from the house. In rare instances solar heat gain may cause these temperature differences.

 Heat from the house travels to the roof surface in three ways: conductionconvection, and radiation.Conduction is heat energy traveling through a solid. A good example of this is the heating of a cast iron frying pan. The heat moves from the bottom of the pan to the handle by conduction.

If you put your hand above the frying pan, heat will reach it by the other two methods. The air right above the frying pan is heated and rises. The rising air carries heat/energy to your hand. This is heat transfer by convection. In addition, heat is transferred from the hot pan to your hand by electromagnetic waves and this is called radiation. Another example of radiation is to stand outside on a bright sunny day and feel the heat from the sun. This heat is transferred from the sun to you by radiation.

In a house, heat moves through the ceiling and insulation by conduction through the slanted portion of the ceiling. In many homes, there is little space in regions like this for insulation, so it is important to use insulations with high R-value per inch to reduce heat loss by conduction.

The top surface of the insulation is warmer than the other surroundings in the attic. Therefore, the air just above the insulation is heated and rises, carrying heat by convection to the roof. The higher temperatures in the insulation’s top surface compared to the roof sheathing transfers heat outward by radiation. These two modes of heat transfer can be reduced by adding insulation. This will make the top surface temperature of the insulation closer to surrounding attic temperatures directly affecting convection and radiation from this surface.

There is another type of convection that transfers heat to the attic space and warms the roof. In the figure above, the winding arrow beginning inside the house and going through the penetration in the ceiling, from the light to the attic space, illustrates heat loss by air leakage. In many homes this is the major mode of heat transfer that leads to the formation of ice dams.

Exhaust systems like those in the kitchen or bathroom that terminate just above the roof may also contribute to snow melting. These exhaust systems may have to be moved or extended in areas of high snow fall.

Other sources of heat in the attic space include chimneys. Frequent use of wood stoves and fireplaces allow heat to be transferred from the chimney into the attic space. Inadequately insulated or leaky duct work in the attic space will also be a source of heat. The same can be said about kneewall spaces.

The photograph below left shows a single story house with an ice dam. The points of heat loss can be clearly seen as those areas with no snow. The ceiling below this area needs to be examined for air leakage, missing or inadequate insulation, leaky or poorly insulated ductwork, and the termination of a kitchen

The photograph below right illustrates unusually high heat loss from the roof. There is very little snow left on the roof and at its edge is both an ice dam and a “beautiful” row of icicles.











So it is primarily heat flowing from the house that is causing the nonuniform temperatures of the roof surface leading to ice dams.

Preventing and dealing with ice dams

In all Minnesota communities it is possible to find homes that do not have ice dams. Ice dams can be prevented by controlling the heat loss from the home.

Immediate action:

  • Remove snow from the roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. A “roof rake” and push broom can be used to remove snow, but may damage the roofing materials.
  • In an emergency situation where water is flowing into the house structure, making channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. Hosing with tap water on a warm day will do this job. Work upward from the lower edge of the dam. The channel will become ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.

Long-term action:

  • First, make the ceiling air tight so no warm, moist air can flow from the house into the attic space.
  • After sealing air leakage paths between the house and attic space, consider increasing the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by conduction.

Both of these actions will increase the snow load that your roof has to carry because it will no longer melt. Can your roof carry the additional load? If it is built to current codes, there should not be a structural problem. Roofs, like the rest of the home, should have been designed to withstand expected snow loads. In Minnesota, plans showing design details to meet expected snow loads are usually required to receive a building permit. The plans for your home may be on file at your local building inspection office. To help you understand the plans, or if you cannot find plans for your home, you may want to contact an architectural engineering firm. A professional engineer should be able to evaluate the structure of your home and answer your questions about the strength of your roof.

  • Natural roof ventilation can help maintain uniform roof temperatures, but if the long-term actions described here are done effectively, then only small amounts of roof ventilation are needed to maintain uniform roof surface temperatures. If heat transfer has been reduced substantially, then snow will build up on the roof and cover natural roof ventilation systems, reducing attic ventilation rates. Natural attic ventilation systems are needed to dry the attic space and remove heat buildup during the summer.

Mechanical attic ventilation IS NOT a recommended solution to ice dams in Minnesota. It can create other attic moisture problems and may cause undesirable negative pressure in the home.


  • Any person on the roof during the winter or performing work on the roof from below is risking injury and risking damage to the roof and house. It is important to contact professionals to carry out this job.
  • Whenever a house is tightened up, ventilation systems, exhausting devices, and combustion devices must have enough air to operate safely and effectively!

Weatherization contractors, who may be listed under Energy Management and Conservation Consultants orInsulation Contractors in the Yellow Pages, are professionals who can deal with the heat transfer problem that creates ice dams. A blower door test should be used by the contractor you hire to evaluate the airtightness of your ceiling. In addition, they may have an infrared camera that can be used to find places in the ceiling where there is excessive heat loss.

Interior damage should not be repaired until ceilings and walls are dry. In addition, interior repair should be done together with correcting the heat loss problem that created the ice dam(s) or the damage will occur again.

Preventing ice dams in new homes

The proper new construction practices to prevent ice dams begin with following or exceeding the state code requirements for ceiling/roof insulation levels.

The second absolutely necessary practice is to construct a continuous, 100% effective air barrier through the ceiling. There should not be any air leakage from the house into the attic space!

Recessed lights, skylights, complicated roof designs, and heating ducts in the attic will all increase the risk of ice dam formation.

Mold, mildew, and air quality

Moisture entering the home from ice dams can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. These biologicals can cause respiratory problems. It is important that the growth of mold and mildew be prevented. This can be done by immediately drying out portions of the house that are wet or damp. Action needs to be taken to clean the home environment and maintain its air quality.


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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago


HealthyExposure® founder Darren Vigil recently recently spent some time reclined in the back of the American Red Cross Mobile Blood bank and donated his blood for the cause.

A big thank you goes to Jeremy, pictured on the left, who took great care of Darren and is a true Red Cross hero!!!!

The American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Their network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world. 

There are several ways that you can help the American Red Cross. You can learn more by clicking here.

The HealthyExposure® choice is to help those in need!









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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

backdraftAre Combustion Gases Spilling Into Your Home?

Does your home have any of these combustion appliances?

  • Gas-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater?
  • Oil-fired furnace, boiler or water heater?
  • Wood stove or fireplace?
  • Other fuel-burning device?

If so, then combustion gases will be produced as the fuel burns. Normally, these combustion products — which can include both visible smoke and various invisible gases — should be vented to the outdoors through a chimney or vent pipe. Unfortunately, they may instead escape into your home, where they could raise a variety of health and other concerns.

Combustion spillage is the term used to describe the unwanted flow of combustion gases into your home. The quantities involved are usually small. However, the number of houses with potentially significant spillage is increasing, and on occasion the results can be extremely serious. This fact sheet provides some important information about combustion spillage. It alerts you to some of the symptoms and outlines practical steps you can take to reduce the risks. In short, this fact sheet is designed to help you keep combustion gases OUT of your home.

Why the Concern?

Because toxic compounds can be present in combustion gases, sharing your home with these gases can lead to problems ranging from nuisance headaches to serious illness, carbon monoxide poisoning and even death. The most likely health effects are chronic, low-grade, sometimes difficult-to-define ailments, and health deterioration due to long-term exposure to the combustion gases. These effects
can occur even if concentrations are low.

Toxic and other harmful products in the combustion gases include:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Aldehydes
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Particulates

Carbon dioxide and water vapour, which are relatively harmless, are often present in larger quantities.

The exact composition and characteristics of combustion gases, and the severity of their effect on your house and its occupants, depend on several factors. These include the type of fuel being burned and the condition of your system.

Understanding Venting and Spillage

When Things Go Right
A typical oil or gas forced-air heating system is shown schematically below. When operating, the system generates two separate air flows:

Combustion air
Combustion is a process in which air and fuel combine to produce heat and various combustion products. Depending on the type of furnace, the air required for combustion may be drawn into the furnace from the surrounding room, or it may be ducted directly from outside the house. Furnaces should be designed to completely remove the resulting combustion gases from your home.

Circulating air   
The heat generated in the furnace, if it is to have any value, must be transferred to the living areas of the home. In a forced-air system, this is accomplished by circulating heated household air. Cooler air is returned to the furnace, heated in a heat exchanger, and returned to the house via the heating ducts.

Basic forced air heating system airflows

In a properly operating forced-air furnace, the combustion air and the circulating air both flow through the furnace as it operates, but do not mix at all (as shown to the left).

Hydronic heating systems — systems that rely on water and radiators to distribute heat — don’t have a circulating air stream. They do, however, require the same supply of combustion air and removal of combustion gases as the forced-air systems. Similarly, gas or oil water heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves all require combustion air, and all require the combustion gases to be vented to the outdoors.


When Things Go Wrong
Unfortunately, combustion systems don’t always work as they should, and combustion spillage is the result.

Sometimes this spillage is obvious — for instance, if you have a wood stove or a fireplace, you may occasionally see smoke escaping into the room. In other cases, spillage may not be so evident, in part because the furnace and water heater are usually located away from the main living areas of the home. In addition, many combustion gases are hard to detect — they are invisible and have little or no odour.

Three major factors, working alone or together, can create conditions conducive to combustion spillage in your home.

In addition to these factors, unusual winds can also sometimes be at fault.

Factor 1: Chimney Problems

Your chimney’s job is to remove combustion gases from your home. However, your chimney won’t work properly if it is poorly designed, poorly installed or poorly maintained.

There are many causes of inadequate chimney performance or failure. Here are some examples:

  • A chimney may be improperly sized — too small for the job or too large to maintain an adequate draft.
  • Obstructions such as birds nests, broken bricks and ice can block a chimney’s air flow.
  • Corrosion may become a problem as a result of condensation or poor construction or installation.
  • An uninsulated chimney on an exterior wall is a particular concern because it can become very cold when combustion gases are not present. This can lead to condensation of moisture from the air. When the chimney first fills with moist combustion gases, the condensation may increase, at least until the chimney warms up. Condensation can result in damage to the materials in the chimney and ice formation. This in turn leads to problems such as crumbling bricks, cracks and leaks, blockages, and poor draft.

Factor 2: Equipment Problems

Combustion spillage due to a cracked heat exchanger

Your home’s combustion appliances are made up of several components. Like chimneys, they should be well designed, properly installed, and regularly maintained. Otherwise, mechanical problems may prevent combustion gases from venting properly.

As an example, your furnace may be causing a spillage problem if the heat exchanger is corroded or cracked. This would allow crossover of circulating air into the combustion chamber or of combustion gases into the circulating air stream. Either way, combustion gases will end up being distributed through your home, as shown to the right.



Factor 3. Pressure Problems
In the winter, we close up our homes. At the same time, we run exhaust fans and numerous other devices that pump air out of the house. (In fact, many appliances, particularly fireplaces, exhaust a considerable amount of air even when not operating.) As a result, the air pressure indoors falls below the air pressure outdoors, and the house becomes depressurized. Pressure is balanced as fresh outdoor air is drawn into the house through available openings, such as cracks and gaps around windows, doors, and small openings in the building structure.

If your house is sufficiently depressurized, air may be sucked in through the chimney. When this happens, air flows down the chimney, rather than up — a condition known as backdrafting. If you have ever opened the damper before lighting your fireplace and felt the big wash of cold air come into the living room, you have encountered backdrafting.

Backdrafting due to depressurizationBackdrafting is most common during the “off ” cycle of the combustion appliance. If the appliance starts up while backdrafting is occurring, the downward airflow in the chimney may be difficult to reverse. Combustion gas spillage could persist for as long after start up as it takes for the backdrafting to be reversed. In houses where the “on” cycle is short and the chimney is not insulated, this type of start up spillage may occur frequently, since the chimney has little opportunity to heat up and establish a good draft. Because the combustion products during start-up are particularly dirty, even minor spillage of this type should be considered undesirable.

In some circumstances, backdrafting can also take place while the combustion appliance is operating — for instance, in a fireplace with a smouldering fire. (See “What About Fireplaces?”.)


Can We Control Combustion Gas Problems?
By reading this fact sheet, you have already made a start toward controlling your combustion gas problems, because increased awareness is the foundation for action. You can build on this foundation by taking measures to preventdetect, and correct combustion spillage problems.

If you follow the recommendations below, you are unlikely to experience hazardous levels of combustion gases in your home. Some of the actions have costs — but that is a small price to pay for improving the quality of the air in your home and for ensuring your health and safety.

Preventing Combustion Spillage
As the saying goes, prevention is the best cure. Some of the actions described below will be easier to implement if you are building, renovating or replacing existing equipment. Even if you are not, there is still a great deal you can do.

Maintain Your Combustion Appliances
Start an annual maintenance routine for all your combustion appliances. Get professional assistance to do this. The service person should check for heat exchanger leakage, evidence of start up spillage, and condensation in chimneys.

Maintenance should include a tune-up — a properly tuned combustion appliance rarely produces carbon monoxide, the most serious threat. If necessary, have your furnace adjusted so that it operates on cycles that are six minutes or longer (to minimize start up spillage). Remember that a thorough maintenance check may cost a little more than a simple cleaning, but it is money well spent.

Inspect and Maintain Your Chimney
A blocked chimney will not vent your furnace’s combustion gases. Have a professional check that your chimney is not cracked and is clear of obstacles such as pieces of broken brick, or ice, or dead birds. This check should be done routinely as part of an annual or bi-annual service call.

Upgrade Your Chimney
Talk to chimney professionals to find out how your chimney’s performance can be improved. If you are building or renovating, try to have the new chimney located on an inside wall.

Have a specialist assess the air supply for your combustion appliances. Remember that even a properly designed combustion air duct will not, on its own, solve spillage or backdrafting problems; chimney problems and depressurization should also be resolved.

When replacing existing equipment or buying new equipment, invest in appliances that are less prone to spillage. Forced draft appliances, which rely on a fan to establish positive venting of combustion gases, are often resistant to spillage. Sealed combustion appliances isolate the combustion air and combustion gases from the living areas. This further restricts the possibility of spillage. Ask the salesperson for advice.

Avoid Conditions that Lead to Backdrafting
With a little care, conditions that might lead to backdrafting can be minimized by reducing indoor and outdoor pressure differences.

For instance:

  • Be wary of operating several powerful exhaust devices simultaneously.
  • If you install a new range-top barbecue with a powerful exhaust fan, get expert advice on how to balance this on the air supply side.
  • Avoid combinations of appliances that are likely to create depressurized conditions — for instance, a natural draft furnace with a range-top barbecue exhaust fan.
  • If your furnace or water heater is enclosed in a small separate room, allow air to move freely between the furnace room and the rest of the house. Louvred doors may be the answer.
  • If you have a forced-air heating system, be sure you are not drawing return air from the immediate vicinity of your combustion appliances. Make sure the blower door on your furnace is in place.

What About Fireplaces?
Fireplaces can be a significant combustion spillage threat and should be treated with great respect. Most people with a fireplace have experienced small puffs of smoke when the fire is lit. They may not know that the smouldering embers of a dying fire can release high concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless, odourless and extremely toxic gas. This happens because when a fire is burning down, little heat is being released; the chimney draft may be very weak and the CO easily spills into the home, sometimes after the family has gone to bed.

Fireplace safety measures include chimney maintenance, warning devices and avoiding conditions that are conducive to backdrafting. Extra air from outdoors should always be provided while the fireplace is burning strongly or smouldering. Keeping fireplace doors tightly shut as the fire burns down can also help reduce the potential for spillage. Consider adding tight-fitting doors if there are none or, better still, install an energy-efficient fireplace insert.

Chimney Flow Test

Chimney flow test

1. Hold a smoke indicator (such as an incense stick) near the draft hood of a gas furnace or water heater, or near the barometric damper of an oil furnace when your furnace is operating. Watch the direction of the smoke.
2. Now switch on all exhaust fans and other exhaust equipment. Check again for smoke movement at the draft hood or damper.
3. If the smoke moves into the house, you may have a spillage problem.You should immediately call an experienced professional heating contractor for a thorough inspection.


Be Careful with Unvented Appliances
If you have an unvented gas range in your home, be sure to use your range hood, and provide extra ventilation whenever the appliance is operating.

Unvented portable space heaters should not be used except in heat emergencies, and then only with windows open to allow combustion gases to escape.

Detecting Combustion Spillage Problems
Even with a good prevention program, you should be on the look-out for combustion gas spillage.

Watch for warning signs such as:

  • Repeated headaches, skin and throat irritations, and other low grade illnesses
  • Combustion odours anywhere in the house
  • Hot and muggy air around the furnace
  • Soot stains around any combustion appliance, or unusual rumbling sounds when it is operating

Do the Chimney Flow Test, a quick and simple procedure that will give you an indication of how well your chimney is working. (This test is not suitable for sealed combustion appliances.)

Install warning devices. Standard smoke alarms are suitable for detecting combustion spillage from oil and wood furnaces and boilers.

Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms should be used with gas or oil furnaces and water heaters, and with fireplaces. CO alarms are sold in hardware and electronic stores. Buy one certified to a UL2034 or CAN/CGA6.19 standards. Electric powered units should also bear the CSA logo. These devices can be installed close to the combustion appliance being monitored. Having a CO detector close to bedrooms is also a good idea.

Correcting Combustion Spillage Problems
If you have a combustion spillage problem, it is important to deal with it. Often, solutions to existing problems and prevention of future problems require similar strategies. Once you have determined that you have a problem and have identified a cause, consider the relevant actions described under Preventing Combustion Spillage. Ensure that all necessary repairs or improvements are done as quickly as possible, and by experienced professionals.

If you are unsure about your options, consult the Yellow Pages™ to find professionals who specialize in, for example, ducting, building inspection, indoor air quality, chimneys and heating equipment. Your fuel supply company should also be able to provide assistance.

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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago


Original Article by: BRAD SCHRADE , Star Tribune:
Watch the Lakeville, MN family video here 

Wes and Mary Anne Bry moved their three daughters to Lakeville 18 years ago, thinking their new house on a quiet cul-de-sac would be a dream home.

But last September, just days before their 30th wedding anniversary, Wes was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and he began to wonder.

Wes, who is 60, had never smoked, and an Internet search led him to radon gas, the nation’s second-leading cause of lung cancer. The Bry’s bought a test kit at a local hardware store, placed it in their basement — and learned that the house where they have lived for nearly two decades has radon levels roughly three times above the federal safety level.

“I alerted all my neighbors,” said Mary Anne. “Anybody I know … I say: ‘You should be doing this test.'”

 State health officials are equally alarmed that, despite years of effort by their colleagues, thousands of other Minnesotans remain unaware of the health risks from the odorless, colorless gas.

More than 40 percent of Minnesota home radon tests conducted in the past 13 years show unsafe levels of the radioactive gas, according to a Star Tribune analysis of state records. Yet Minnesota has no mandatory radon testing of homes, schools or day care centers; no requirement that homeowners test for radon before selling a house; and weaker real estate disclosure rules than some leading states.

Last month, the Minnesota Department of Health launched a new effort to reach the thousands of families who, like the Brys, could be caught unaware. Health officials have also begun reviewing state radon standards, particularly a 2009 building code change that was supposed to mitigate radon in new home construction. State researchers estimate that up to one-third of new homes may have unsafe radon levels, and they are conducting a study this year to see if the new construction standards are working.

Efforts underfunded

“The bottom line is if you live in Minnesota you are at risk for radon,” said Andrew Gilbert, outreach coordinator for the Health Department’s radon program. A radon check should be automatic when someone buys a house, he said.

“You’re going down a checklist of things to take care of. This is just one more thing that you can do to protect yourself.”


William Angell, a University of Minnesota professor who has studied radon policy, says that nearly three decades of public health efforts have suffered from chronic underfunding, and another group of researchers this year called for a new national strategy to combat the problem.

“If you have an airliner that crashes, you’re going to have public reactions and government investigations,” Angell said. “That doesn’t happen with lung cancer deaths.”

Some 21,000 people nationwide die each year from lung cancer caused by radon exposure, according to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas created when radioactive uranium breaks down in the soil and then seeps into a home through cracks or other openings in the foundation. The gas is common in the Midwest because of regional geology and is more concentrated in basements and lower levels; the only way to detect its presence is through a test, usually at a cost of about $15 to $20 per kit. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter; a test score above 4.0 is considered a significant health risk that the EPA says should be mitigated from a home.

Significant swaths of Minnesota show up on the EPA’s red zone list — areas with the greatest potential for unsafe radon levels.

The Star Tribune’s analysis of 121,000 test results over the past 13 years found that more than four in 10 were above the EPA’s “action” level. Some 42 Minnesota counties, mostly in the south and west, had at least 50 percent of their tests above the action level. Even in counties with lower concentrations, individual homes can contain high radon.

Dakota County, where the Brys live, is in a red zone. The tests of their home ranged roughly from 10 to 13.8 picocuries. After hearing about the Brys’ tests, two neighbors tested their homes: One found results above the safe level and has already installed a mitigation system.

Wes Bry recognizes the challenges ahead with his cancer, but has responded well to treatment. His genetic makeup allows him to take oral chemotherapy pills and avoid more invasive chemo treatments. He says he will never know what caused his cancer, but he wishes he had known about the risks of radon well before he was diagnosed.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice to be more aware of this, even a decade ago?” he said. “What 10 years could have done. That’s the past and now we’ll look at the future. We might be able to alter other people’s futures.”

Now he and Mary Anne worry about the rest of their family. Two of their daughters lived in the basement at various points. The family went through an anxious period after getting the test results.

“Sometimes I tell Wes we should all pack up and move into a hotel,” Mary Anne said.

 Last month, a mitigation team installed a removal system. A subsequent test showed levels at 0.7 picocuries, well below the national average indoor level of 1.3.

“It’s wonderful,” Mary Anne said. “Wouldn’t you feel the same way?”

Today many people find it hard to believe they have radon.

It’s becoming less of a surprise, but it’s still generally a surprise, “You can’t see it, can’t smell it, can’t taste it.”

The curious case of a Pennsylvania nuclear plant worker helped push radon into the national consciousness in the mid-1980s. Even though the plant had not opened, radiation detectors at the exit went off every time he left work. He eventually determined that he was carrying radiation from home; when he tested his house, radon levels were off the charts.

The case drew national attention and caught the eye of Washington, along with research linking radon to lung cancer. In 1988, Congress passed the Indoor Radon Abatement Act, which authorized the EPA to spend millions of dollars in grants to educate the public and conduct abatement programs.

Over time, however, federal and state support have declined, and public communication efforts have fallen short, according to the U’s Angell, who directs the Midwest Universities Radon Consortium and works with the World Health Organization on radon.

Angell said public understanding does not stand up to the risk posed by radon. It’s easy for people to forget a gas that occurs naturally, falls outside traditional regulatory channels, and takes its victims in relative anonymity.

“The lack of awareness about radon as a serious health risk is a challenge that has been with us for decades,” Angell said.

Failures in educating the public have led some researchers to propose a new approach. Cancer risk from radon is much higher among smokers; so limited funding available to alert the public should target smokers to encourage them to test their homes for radon and quit smoking, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.

“The strategy of trying to educate everyone about radon is not working,” said study co-author Paula Lantz, a Minnesota native who chairs the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University. “In a perfect world I’d be for universal testing, but in this case it’s not working.”

An activist is born

Gloria Linnertz and her husband, Joe, were among the millions of people who failed to get the message. Joe Linnertz had not smoked for nearly three decades, but he died in February 2006, just six weeks after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.


His wife soon learned about the links between radon and lung cancer and decided to test the home where they had lived for 18 years in Waterloo, Ill. The result came back at more than four times above the EPA action level.

“I was very upset,” she said. “I wanted to tear the house down.”

Linnertz has carried the message to other states — driven, in part, by what she learned in those weeks after her husband died.Instead, she had a radon mitigation system installed and became a radon activist as one of the leaders of the group CanSar-Cancer Survivors Against Radon. She helped Illinois adopt stronger radon disclosure laws for real estate transactions, which has helped educate buyers and led to more testing. The state just this year started requiring day cares to test for radon.

“Why didn’t I know?” she said. “Why doesn’t every person in our nation know?”

Original article: Star Tribune

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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

Joel Spoonheim

About Joel Spoonheim


Joel Spoonheim is Healthways’ director of the Healthways | Blue Zones Vitality City initiative. A leader in community transformation, he has worked for city governments, a food manufacturer, healthcare companies, and non-profits directing major initiatives that require engaging diverse stakeholders and complex problem solving.

The Healthways Blue Zones Vitality City initiative is currently transforming three adjacent cities in California. Vitality City coordinates 10-15 concurrent initiatives to change people’s daily environments to make healthy choices easy. The initiative strives to improve well-being – physical, social, and emotional health, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In 2009, Spoonheim led the first pilot to prove a saturation strategy, the AARP Blue Zones Vitality Project in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Mr. Spoonheim’s approach grows out of over 15 years of community development experience, including six years as a planner for the City of St. Paul, Minnesota and three years as the Economic and Redevelopment Director for the City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. In these cities he led projects to transform some of the toughest neighborhoods, build new affordable housing, create new jobs, and reduce crime. Spoonheim also co-founded a non-profit and for 12 years trained emerging leaders how to improve the places where they live and work.

About this presentation – You make me sick. How healthy communities create healthy individuals.

Joel Spoonheim talks about the work he is doing to create new Blue Zones and specifically the processes that he is using to transform communities into healthier places to live. He builds on the idea that we should stop just treating individual patients and shift some of our focus onto changing the environment that patients live in. He closes with a plea that as individuals we should demand healthy choices, help create them and select them once they are available. 

Joel holds a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelors degree from Luther College. Spoonheim is married and has a daughter.

Source: TedX Manhattan Beach

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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago


Due to the amount of time people spend indoors, we are totally dependent on the quality of the indoor environment for the air we are breathing. And in order to provide a quality indoor environment, one of the critical factors is to have a properly maintained heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

The hygienic condition of an HVAC system plays a major part in providing a quality indoor environment. Clean coils combined with an unobstructed air delivery system play a major role in the ability to provide a cleaner indoor environment while also providing energy efficiency benefits as well.

See this article about the importantce of duct cleaning!

HealthyExposure® and our business partners provides a full range of leading edge mechanical system cleaning services including Ventilation System Cleaning, Odor Neutralization and Sanitization. Our specialty-trained team will professionally carry out all phases of an HVAC cleaning project from the initial system evaluation and full system cleaning.

It is important for proper Duct/HVAC Cleaning as ventilation systems overtime fill with dust and debris. It is common to have construction debris left in the ventilation system as well. These conditions can lead to many problems throughout the home including allergies and asthma triggers. The good way to minimize these problems in your home or workplace is to have your HVAC system cleaned as needed.  Proper duct cleaning will help keep your home healthier by reducing allergens and asthma triggers, while also helping your HVAC ventilation system run more efficiently.  A clean HVAC system can help make your heating and cooling systems more efficient, have a longer operating life and reduce future maintenance costs. HVAC system cleaning is crucial if there is visible contaminants inside the ventilation system, if they are infested with vermin, or they are clogged with excessive amounts of dust or debris. These can cause health-related problems as well.

HealthyExposure® offers complete HVAC system duct cleaning.  With proper duct and vent cleaning, you can breathe easier knowing that your home’s HVAC system is as clean as it can be. Ask your HealthyExposure Expert about upgrading your furnace filter and UV Light purification too.

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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

mediamaxphoyoHealthyExposure, Inc. was a featured corporate sponsor of the Healthy Life Expo this past weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The show is produced by Media Max Events and Expos, Inc.  The Healthy Life Expo had record attendance this past weekend. HealthyExposure, Inc. supports and encourages Healthy Homes, Lawns and Lifestyles.






Find out more about MediaMax at


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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

National Radon Action Month

EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month. Learn more about the national effort to take action against radon.

  • Reduce your family’s risk of lung cancer
  • Find ways to reduce your risk of lung cancer during National Radon Action Month
  • Learn four easy things you as homeowners, renters, and parents can do to take action in January
  • Find links to local radon information and more
Health Risks Hotlines & ResourcesIndoor airPLUS Kids, Students and Teachers Map of Radon Zones Media Campaigns National Radon Action Month Radon-Resistant New Construction Radon and Real Estate Radon in Drinking Water Radon Leaders Saving Lives State Radon Contacts State Indoor Radon Grants Test or Fix Your Home Webinars Indoor Air Quality

Basic Information | Where You Live | A to Z Subject Index | Publications | Frequent Questions | Glossary | Related Links




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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago

mpls-chamberThe founder of HealthyExposure, Inc, Darren J. Vigil who was a guest of Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Board Member Susan O’Reilly and owner of O’Reilly Creative, LLC addressing Minneapolis City Council concerning small business growth needs and benefits for the local community. 

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Ice Dams--What you can do

Friday, March 15, 2013 3:32:14 PM America/Chicago


To show their appreciation for all the hard work that the HealthyExposure team has performed for 2012, owners Darren Vigil and Jeff Fagerland treated the team to a Brazillian Steakhouse dinner at Fogo De Chao in Downtown Minneapolis. All 16 choices of meat are served gaucho style and the service does not stop until you flip your card from green to red indicating that you surrender.

The whole crew enjoyed many types of meat including beef, lamb and chicken. Beef was certainly the favorite request by  far.


Our champion eater for the night was Andy (left and front), being the last to flip over his card and ending with the bottom sirloin which was a big hit. In the background is Billy Boyle, one of our safety trainers. Billy tried to keep up with everyone but took the higher road of quitting while he was ahead.


Our runner-up eater for the evening was Paul (right) tech and social media support. He anxiously took the challenge to be the last one to flip his card over ending his dinner with a delicous piece of Fillet Mignon, his favorite choice cut. Paul topped that off with a molten lava cake and ice cream


The HealthyExposure team had a wonderful time and many discussions about the direction and prosperus future of HealthyExposure took place.  Look for big things coming from HealthyExposure and its wonderful team of experts in 2013 and beyond!



(From center of table and then clockwise: Darren Vigil, Paul Jones,
Mark Finholt, Barry Mingo, Billy Boyle, Andy Gosha, Jeff Fagerland)

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