Radon – a gas second only to cigarette smoke in its ability to cause lung cancer – can’t be seen, smelled or tasted.
This gas kills about 500 Coloradans annually. It is a Class A carcinogen and the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in people who never have smoked.
Locally and statewide, Colorado public health officials are urging residents to test their homes for this noxious gas. Radon exists at high levels across the state and in our region particularly. In La Plata County, radon comes from the decay of granite and uranium in the soil.
Now is the perfect time to test your home for a couple of reasons:
First, winter’s cold temperatures make it easy to keep windows and doors closed while conducting the test.
Second, kits and other resources are free right now. The Colorado State University Extension Office is providing information, classes and tests at no cost while they last.
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive by-product of decomposing uranium – a metal found in the ground throughout the Rocky Mountains, often in trace amounts.
The gas does not immediately sicken people, but with prolonged exposure, generally over the span of 10 or more years, it can be harmful. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends indoor levels fall below 4.0 picoCuries per liter. During the last eight years, the average for homes tested in La Plata County is 6.4 pCi/l – with the high reading being 313 pCi/l.
On average, two-thirds of the houses in the county are at least 50 percent above the EPA’s recommended maximum exposure level. Radon levels can be very different from one house to the next because of soil composition, construction style and living conditions.
Radon is sucked from the ground into houses through miniscule holes in crawl spaces or though spaces between walls. To a lesser extent, it also can seep through walls, much like water seeping through the floor of a basement.
Once the radon level has been identified, mitigation involves removing the particles by installing a fan to change the air flow and move the gas to the outdoors.
The key is getting tested.
Classes and free tests are scheduled for Bayfield, Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs. A free screening is recommended for the initial test. A more sophisticated test is available for $25 and $50.
It is easy to come up with excuses to ignore testing your home, especially because radon is odorless and does not have an immediate impact on your health or quality of life. However, the long-term effect is undeniable and fairly easy to resolve.
This test can save your life.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is a family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.