Radon in the Valley

  I recently wrote an article for the new ChatsworthPatch website about the potential dangers of radon in Chatsworth.
  What I learned was astounding. First, that radon is a very commonly-occurring substance throughout the United States. Second, that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. (Smoking is the first). Third, that throughout the San Fernando Valley radon levels considered unsafe by the EPA have been documented in LOTS of residences.
  The statistics come from a California Dept. of Public Health database that is available to all. It lists the results of tests done on residences by zip code. There is no information on specific addresses or actual radon levels -- it just shows how many tests have been reported in a zip code and how many were at or above the unsafe level of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter.)
  I work in Chatsworth (16%) live in Northridge (30%), and have relatives living in Granada Hills (16%) and Woodland Hills (32%), so I immediately ordered test kits for home and office and relatives from the Dr. Home Air website as mentioned in the article. It took about a week for the kits to arrive.
  The test kit directions state that your home test should be done with all the doors and windows closed. This is not a condition that is normal for my home most of the year -- but it just happened that 100 degree-plus temperatures conspired to keep the a/c running and all doors and windows closed. (There were no directions about air conditioning.)
  The test was easy -- take the little plastic container filled with activated charcoal out of a poly bag and set it on a surface off of the floor in a living space inside the house. 
   We set the kit out on top of the piano in the living room on Friday and on Monday morning popped it into its little bag and sent it off to the lab for analysis. (The cost of analysis is included in the $5 test kit fee -- a bargain.) Today we received the results by e-mail, which we had requested.
  They were NOT good. Our home showed a level of 4.2 pCi/L. While you might say that's just a fraction over the line of safe/unsafe, you might want to know that the World Health Organization recently lowered what it considers a "safe" level to 2.7 percent. Which means our home is definitely in the red zone.
  The next step will be to run another test (I got an extra kit just in case) and see what the results from that are. If we get two "bad" tests, then we'll have to call in the pros to decide what our next step is.
  Most likely, we'll install a radon mitigation system. In my view, you can't be too careful with a toxin in your home that, if left untreated, means me and my family would have the same chance of dying of lung cancer as we would of dying in a car crash. For more crazy statistics like this, and more info on radon, check out the very informative and easy to navigate EPA Radon website.
  If you live in the Valley and you haven't ordered your test kit yet, do it. Or make sure you have really good health insurance.


Native Plant Sale & Free Garden Talks

  The hubby and I have decided to kill the lawn and create a drought-tolerant landscape in our front yard. That darned Bermuda grass just doesn't want to go away! No water for nearly 9 months and there's still green sprouts (but not enough to leave it.
  So I was very excited to learn about the Native Plant Sale this weekend. The extremely knowledgeable volunteers from the California Native Plant Society will be selling seeds, shrubs, irises, mints, sages, berries and more plus books, posters, and other paraphernalia on Saturday and Sunday, October 2 and 3.
  The event takes place at the Sepulveda Garden Center at 16633 Magnolia Blvd. in Encino, just west of Hayvenhurst.
On Saturday, at 1pm, noted landscape architect Bob Perry will discuss his latest book, Landscape Plants for California Gardens. Of course copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
  Then at noon on Sunday, Emily Green, who writes the "Dry Garden" column for the LA Times, will talk about the 10-year evolution of a native garden.
  If you haven't visited yet, the Sepulveda Garden Center is made up of community garden plots and touring through that is worth the trip in and of itself.
  Later in the month the Theodore Payne Foundation will be hosting its own sale so if you don't find what you're looking for this weekend, there's a fallback!