Testing, reduction systems suggested for eliminating radioactive gas

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Test kits

Long- and short-term radon test kits are available at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 221 W. Victory Way. For more information, call Elisa Shackelton at 824-9180.

— For many, winter weather warrants a house closed tightly against the cold.

Yet, for nearly half the homes in Colorado, this practice can increase the concentration of a naturally-occurring gas proven to cause lung cancer.

As temperatures drop, Moffat County homeowners should test their houses for radon, said Elisa Shackelton, Colorado State University Moffat County Cooperative Extension director.

Radon, a radioactive gas caused by uranium decay in soil and rocks, occurs around the globe.

"It's everywhere," Shackelton said. "It's in the air we breathe all the time."

Outdoors, radon concentration usually is low and harmless.

Indoors, especially in homes that remain closed to outside air, the gas can concentrate to dangerous levels.

In-home radon concentration depends on three factors: The soil beneath the house, how well the house is sealed and whether or not its inhabitants vent to outside air.

Although the gas is odorless, tasteless and invisible, it can be deadly.

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, the Environmental Protection Agency Web site reports.

The good news?

"The good news is all homes can get fixed," Shackelton said.

After receiving a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the CSU Moffat County Extension Office offers radon test kits free of charge.

A short-term test kit takes three to seven days to complete.

Should the results of two test kits show the radon concentration to be 4 or more picoCuries per liter of air, homeowners should conduct a long-term test, which determines radon levels during a period of three months to a year, Shackelton said.

A third reading of 4 p.Ci/L or more means radon levels are too high for human habitation.

Installing vent systems in basements and crawl spaces and sealing cracks in foundations can reduce radon levels in the home, the EPA reported.

Radon testing and reduction systems are particularly necessary in Colorado, where approximately one in every two homes has elevated radon levels, Shackelton said.

"We really encourage everyone in Colorado to have testing," she said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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