High levels of radon found in NW Colorado


— Test results for Northwest Colorado counties are showing that approximately 50 percent of our homes have elevated radon levels above the EPA's action level of 4.0 picocuries per liter.

And even more distressing is that recent data shows there are homes in our area with levels of radon as high as 114 pCi/l.

If your home's radon level is above 4.0 pCi/l, the EPA recommends hiring a certified radon mitigator to install a system that removes radon from underneath the home before it has a chance to enter. If you are building a new structure in Northwest Colorado - whether it is a home or office building - it would be very wise to err on the side of caution and build in a radon removal system, since this can cost as little as $300 to $500, versus paying anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 to install a radon removal system into an existing structure.

Because indoor radon levels are high throughout most of Colorado, many cities and counties are adopting Appendix F of the International Residential Code, which requires radon control methods in all new construction. Since the purpose of building codes is to present safe and habitable structures for initial and future occupants, it only makes sense to adopt radon control measured as part of Colorado building codes.

According to Felix Lee, Fort Collins Building Official, "It makes complete sense in the code, given the high risk radon poses to the health of a home's inhabitants. It's right up there with ground fault protection, smoke detection and all sorts of items that are in the building code that are there to protect the public's health and safety." The city of Fort Collins was one of the first in the nation to require radon resistant new construction effective Jan. 1, 2005.

Did You Know?

Electrically heated homes may be more prone to elevated levels of radon. Why? Because typically these homes use additional insulation as a barrier to the outside temperatures. This extra insulation factor also traps the inside air, reducing outside air infiltration into the living space. Electrically heated homes also are designed with insulation in the ceiling of the basements, concentrating the radon in that area, according to the Western Region Radon Training Center.

Granite counter tops can be a source of radiation into a home. A recent study found that some pieces of granite can be a source of dangerous levels of radiation. More studies are needed, but for now, builders and homeowners might want to test pieces of granite before having them installed.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths, taking more lives than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancer combined. Lung cancer kills three times as many men as prostate cancer, and twice as many women compared to breast cancer. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among never smokers, and multiplies the lung cancer risk for former and current smokers.

Through a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, free radon test kits still are available at the Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson, Grand and Moffat County CSU extension offices, so if you haven't tested yet, there is still time to take advantage of this free testing opportunity. For more information, call Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 824-9180, or visit your local county Extension office.


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