State offers free radon test kits during Radon Action Month in January
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A silent killer is creeping into homes in Colorado, and most people won’t know they’ve even been affected until it’s too late.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that is estimated to kill 500 people a year from lung cancer in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates national deaths from radon are as high as 20,000 annually, and the U.S. Surgeon General lists radon exposure as the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Colorado is stepping up radon awareness with the State Board of Health National designating January as Radon Action Month.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has launched a program that offers free radon mitigation systems to homeowners who meet certain income requirements and whose homes have high radon levels. To see if you qualify or to apply, visit coloradoradon.info.
Colorado is especially vulnerable because of its uranium deposits throughout the state and its prevalence of igneous, or heat-fired, rock.
“Radon comes from the breakdown of uranium,” said Scott Cowman, director of environmental health for Routt County.
He pointed out the old uranium mine above Fish Creek as a local example.
“Think about the Rockies made up of igneous rock … they eventually break down and eventually go downhill in the normal process of erosion,” Cowman explained. “Colorado is generally sort of a hot area, and Steamboat is right there with other counties that have a high level of uranium.”
State officials say January is an ideal time for radon testing.
“Testing your home for radon is simple and should be done when all your doors and windows are closed,” said Chrystine Kelley, radon program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Boulder County has been especially aggressive in radon detection.
“We recommend everyone test their house because your neighbor may not have any (radon presence) but you do. It’s different from house to house,” said Susan Martino, health specialist for Boulder County.
Kelley said about half of Colorado homes have radon gas levels that exceed the EPA’s action level.
The action level is measured as 4 pCi/L, which measures radioactivity as PicoCuries per liter of air. During indoor tests taken by the state of Colorado from 2005 to 2017, Hinsdale and Mineral counties in southwest Colorado and Teller County in central Colorado tested for the highest levels of radon. The lowest radon levels were found in Sedgwick County in far northeast Colorado and Conejos and Alamaso counties in southern Colorado.
Routt County’s average radon level, from more than a thousand samples, averaged 6.6 pCi/L. The state recommends starting radon remediation at 4 pCi/L.
Health officials said smokers’ chances for lung cancer significantly increase if radon levels are high in the home.
Visit coloradoradon.info for more information about radon.
For a free test kit, visit colorado.gov/cdphe/testing-your-home-radon.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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