EPA urges testing for radon in Colorado homes
January 13, 2010
SUMMIT COUNTY – You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but that doesn’t mean it’s not present in dangerous levels inside your home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The federal agency has designated January “Radon Action Month,” to encourage people to test for the cancer-causing gas in their homes. Each year, about 20,000 people in the U.S. die as a result of radon exposure. In Colorado, the gas causes about 500 lung-cancer deaths annually.
Summit County is located in the EPA’s Zone 1 for radon potential, the highest level of risk for radon exposure. Fifty-two of Colorado’s 64 counties are in Zone 1.
“We want every homeowner in Colorado to test their home,” said Chrystine Kelley, radon program coordinator for the Colorado Department of Health.
Radon enters homes through cracks in the floor or spaces around utility pipes and accumulates unless properly vented. Long-term radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in smokers.
“Qualified contractors can seal cracks and install ventilation systems to prevent radon from collecting in your home,” Kelley said.
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Radon comes from the radioactive decay of uranium, which occurs naturally in soil. The gas moves unpredictably through soil, so it’s possible for radon to collect in one home, but not in a home next door.
The winter months are an ideal time to test a home for radon, because short-term tests require closed windows and doors. These months are also the most dangerous, since windows and doors tend to stay closed.
“Most people don’t think about it, but it’s in so many homes, it’s staggering,” said Eric Goard, president of Stanton Engineering, which conducts radon mitigation in Summit, Eagle and Garfield counties. “It’s very easy to fix, and it’s not that expensive.”
Goard said many people don’t test for radon until they’re selling their home.
“I’m amazed how often we go in for a real-estate transaction, and the people have lived there for 20 years. Then, they’re kicking themselves for not doing anything about it sooner.”
Radon kits typically cost about $20 and are available at hardware stores and home-improvement stores.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides coupons for reduced-cost radon test kits at http://www.colorado
radon.info. The website also lists contractors certified by the National Environmental Health Association to install systems to remove or mitigate radon. Colorado residents can also call the state’s Radon Hotline at (800) 846-3986.