With snow comes the opportunity for you to find out if your home is harboring the No. 2 cause of lung cancer: radon
Do you know the level of radon in your home? Is it below 4 picocuries per liter? Of tests completed over the last five
years that involved Colorado State University Extension and San Juan Basin Health Department, two of every three have
required additional action. Throughout La Plata County, homes have tested anywhere from 1 to 98 pCi/L. January is
National Radon Awareness Month.
Radon gas is a natural product of our particular soil, but can cause lung cancer if trapped in a living space. Radon is
a colorless, odorless gas that results from decay in the soil. The gas moves through the ground and into your home via
cracks and holes in the foundation, collecting in enclosed spaces like basements or ground-floor living areas.
Without radon testing and proper radon mitigation, radon exposure is extremely dangerous. Radon gas is the No. 1 cause
of lung cancer among nonsmokers and second-leading cause of lung cancer overall. If levels are elevated one can vent
radon gas from the home before it has a chance to build up to harmful levels inhaled by residents.
Home construction techniques of the last 20 years have led to tighter, more energy-efficient homes. These tighter homes
also have the ability to hold more radon gas indoors. It's critical to determine if you have radon in your home and
The good news is that testing and mitigation are possible to accomplish without a lot of expense. Also because of
energy tax credits available through 2010, some improvements that make your home more energy efficient can decrease
radon levels in your home (30 percent tax credit).
To provide information and testing, we have scheduled several sessions for community residents to learn about radon. At
these sessions we also have free test kits while they last. (For more information call 247-4355 or 247-5702, ext.
Basic radon testing involves a test packet hung in the lowest living area of your home. Results are e-mailed to you
within a day or two after the lab receives your test kit. You can also purchase the radon test kit for around $12 from
local hardware stores. Hang the test for three days when your home is closed. Excess air circulation negatively impacts
accuracy of radon test results.
The results are reported in picocuries per liter of air, or pCi/L. If the result is 4 pCi/L or above, a mitigation
system is recommended. This typically involves a soil suction radon-mitigation system. One starts by sealing cracks in
the home's foundation, then installing a vent pipe under the lowest level floor to vent outside. A specific fan could
be installed to pull the gas from the soil beneath the house and vent it above the roof where it can't re-enter the
Most importantly, after the radon mitigation system is installed, get a second radon gas test done. Only by testing can
you be sure the radon mitigation system was properly designed and installed. Your home should be re-tested every five
years; if one has a mitigation system, it should be re-tested every two years.
Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.