On Jan. 5, Gov. Bill Ritter and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proclaimed January as National Radon Action Month.
All residents (renters and owners) are urged to screen test their home for radon. It is recommended that every home be retested every five years.
January is an excellent time to test your home. The screening will take three days to complete. If it comes back elevated (greater than the 4 picocuries per liter of air), a second test is recommended.
As we begin our fourth year using this education-awareness grant, compilation indicates 63 percent of La Plata County's homes tested through this grant tested at risk with recommendations for action. Results have ranged from 1 to 91 picocuries.
EPA recommends a mitigation system if your home tests above 4 picocuries/liter. Qualified contractors in this area can seal cracks and install ventilation systems to prevent as much as 99 percent of radon gas from collecting. Building radon out during new home construction is much less expensive and more effective by using some simple, preventive techniques. Merely opening a window will not adequately remove radon.
Exposure to radon can be easily impacted. By conducting a simple test and taking action when appropriate, you have a direct influence on the amount of exposure and can impact the entire family's risk of contracting radon-induced lung cancer. The impact on other body organs is being reviewed.
Long-term exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and overall second-leading cause of lung cancer - ahead of secondhand smoke, which causes about 1,400 Colorado deaths annually. Though some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths caused by radon, all major health organizations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Lung Association, EPA, American Medical Association, World Health Organization) agree radon gas causes thousands of preventable lung-cancer deaths annually. The risk to smokers increases significantly when combined with a high radon gas environment.
Radon results from decay of uranium found in the granite in our soil and mountains. Because soils in our area vary significantly and because the gas moves unpredictably though the soil, it is possible for radon to collect in one home and not the one next door. The style of house construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old, new, drafty, insulated, with basements or without. The immediate geology, construction materials and how the home is built are factors.
Radon enters the home through minuscule cracks in floors or crawlspaces, or openings around drains, utility pipes or sump pumps. It accumulates in homes more during winter months because of cold temperatures, snow coverage on the ground and closed house conditions. Gas is sucked into the home as a result of negative air pressure, and this continues until the home is appropriately vented. Radon accounts for 43 percent of an individual's average annual radiation exposure, according to the WHO.
To give people a better understanding and appreciation of radon, we have scheduled several community meetings to discuss radon (new construction as well as existing) and recommended actions that can be taken. Our next program will be held at noon Jan. 24 at the fairgrounds. We will provide information and screening kits to participants free.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata
County Extension Office.