Downers Grove is updating its building code to include new state rules aimed at reducing radon in new construction.
The Village Council recently approved a mandate that all new residences in town must be built with "passive radon resistant construction," in line with a state law passed in June.
Community Development Director Tom Dabareiner said the law was enacted in response to the growing consensus that radon poses significant health risks. The council approved the measure at its April 1 meeting with all in attendance voting in favor. Commissioners Sean P. Durkin and Geoff Neustadt were absent.
"There's a large portion of the state where there is a significant amount of radon that's found in the soil and then a couple of areas where it's medium," Dabareiner said.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can emanate from soil into the air and seep into a home through cracks in the foundation, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA also states that radon exposure in the home is linked to more than 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.
Using radon resistant construction, according to state law, means new homes must include piping that sucks in air containing radon and exhausts it above the roof, preventing it from entering the home.
Northeastern Illinois, including Cook, DuPage and other nearby counties, are part of the area with "medium" amounts of radon found in the soil, according to the EPA.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency says that of more than 21,000 homes in DuPage tested for radon between 2003 and 2011, 43 percent were found to have "high" levels.
Dabareiner said the village has included the new radon requirements when issuing building permits since the beginning of the year, shortly after the IEMA finalized regulations in December. He also said builders have been aware of the new law and the mandate has not yet proved to be a problem.
"It's $400 to $1,000, depending on the system," Dabareiner said. "As a percentage, it's not that big of a deal, but it's still an additional cost."
Both agencies recommend that all homes should be tested for radon regardless of their location, noting that some homes have recorded high levels of radon even in areas with less potential for the gas. Testing often must be initiated by the homeowner, as it is not required by the village.
"Many lenders do request or require it," Village Manager David Fieldman said.