Greg Pohlman, a certified radon mitigation provider, inspects a fan system he installed outside a home in Heritage Park. Radon is found in high levels in about half the homes in Steamboat Springs, he said.

Photo by Zach Fridell

Greg Pohlman, a certified radon mitigation provider, inspects a fan system he installed outside a home in Heritage Park. Radon is found in high levels in about half the homes in Steamboat Springs, he said.

Radon lurks in city homes

Half of Steamboat houses have high levels; EPA urges testing

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— The second leading cause of lung caner in the United States can be found in about half of the homes in Steamboat Springs, and many residents are unaware it exists.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that seeps from the ground. The only way to detect radon in your home is to perform a simple test.

Routt County Extension Agent Karen Massey has been handing out test kits and informing the public about the danger, but many homes in Steamboat remain untested and unprotected.

Massey said the radon danger is a part of the geography of Colorado, but there is no easy way to find which homes are at risk.

"The only way is to spend five dollars and five days to do the test," she said.

Radon test kits are available from the extension office in the Routt County Courthouse Annex on Sixth Street. A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency allowed Massey to distribute 200 of the tests for free. They now cost $5 from the office or less than $15 at most hardware stores.

The EPA recommends all Colorado homes be tested for radon. The gas can cause lung cancer in everyone, but smokers especially are susceptible.

Greg Pohlman, one of the few radon mitigation specialists in Northwest Colorado, said about half of the homes he tests in Steamboat have radon levels higher than recommended by federal guidelines.

"There's no rhyme or reason about which houses have high levels," Pohlman said. "I can test one house that has high levels, and next door they're fine."

Pohlman performs the radon tests and installs the systems to vent the gas. His two companies that perform the work are Complete Home Inspection Services LLC and Northwest Radon Mitigation Services.

From the bottom up

Radon is a byproduct of uranium decay, and it seeps out of the ground into any unprotected structure. The gas enters houses through joints in sub-basement floors, cracks, vents or any other permeable space. Radon levels are worst in the lowest points in homes, and homeowners should use the tests in those areas, Massey said.

Radon tests are little more than an envelope designed to capture traces of radon in the air. Once opened, the homeowner should hang the test in the lowest livable room in the house and wait three to five days before sealing the envelope and dropping the postage-paid package in the mail. The results take about three weeks to arrive, Massey said.

For faster results, Pohlman also uses an electronic measurement tool that can give immediate results.

If a home does have high radon levels, a radon mitigation system should be installed to vent the toxic gas from under the home outside above the roof.

Pohlman installs a variety of systems based on the type of home construction. The systems require that a hole be drilled in the foundation of the house, with a fan and pipe attached. Pohlman said the systems he installs typically range in price from $1,400 to $1,800 for basement systems, and $2,000 to $3,000 for crawlspace systems.

Pohlman said he has found home levels in Steamboat up to 100 picocuries/liter, far above the 4 pCi/L limit recommended by the EPA. Pohlman said an average reading usually is below 10 pCi/L.

Although all areas of Routt County potentially have high levels of radon, Pohlman said he has found especially high levels in Steamboat near Fish Creek Falls, where Uranium Mine Trail marks the site of former uranium mines.

Many people ask if radon levels can be tested before a house is built, but Pohlman said the only thing a home builder can do is install a preventative system as the structure is built, which may not be needed but always will be cheaper than if a system is installed after the construction is finished. Instead of several thousand dollars, Pohlman said, preventative systems cost several hundred dollars.

In a new building, sheets of plastic and ventilation areas can be added to allow any radon that escapes the ground to leave at the sub-level instead of traveling into the house.

Comments

thecondoguy1 6 years, 5 months ago

How many people do you know who have died from lung cancer, caused by radon????????????????

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Ted_Bell 6 years, 5 months ago

How many people do you know who have died of any reason in their own home with drugs or alcohol being a contributing factor?

I had a friend who had a tenant who died of a heroin overdose in one of the many units my friends owns. His management company uses all reasonable due diligence to pre-screen tenants for criminal history and they run credit report. No matter how many employees has, he still cannot save his tenants from their own poor decisions. The friends of the family of the man who died were livid that the property owner did not always maintain drug sniffing dogs on the premises and sued for wrongful death.

It was a good thing that my friend had some talented lawyers always on retainer. The family of the deceased tried to claim that is was RADON (or maybe it was Radar) that killed the bloke even though the tox report showed that the bloke had essentially embalmed himself with drugs and alcohol.

Once a woman died because she was intoxicated in her rental unit and her burning cigarette caught the bed on fire. Her husband sued for wrongful death and lack of consortium and blamed RADON and the public schools (for lack of DARE training in the 70s which no doubt contributed to this tragic event).

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mustangsally 6 years, 5 months ago

Greg Pohlman is a home inspector who does optional testing for radon as part of his inspections. He is also one of the few people in this part of the state who also does radon mitigation.

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outsiderlookingin 6 years, 5 months ago

Another tasteless odorless gas that we must protect ourselves from. You can't smell it or touch it or taste it but if you give me 1500 bucks I can make sure you'll live forever. What a scam!! Do I hear conflict of interest Greg?

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seascape 6 years, 5 months ago

How many people do I know who have died from lung cancer and were living with high levels of radon in their homes?

My husband hadn't smoked in 27 years and we were living with over 4 times the EPA action level of radon in our home for 18 years. He died of lung cancer in 2006.

I will not reveal the full names but here's a list of some of the people I know.

Doug in Wyoming a never smoker, died 2008. Living with 66 picocuries of radon (pCi/L)

Dennie in Ohio a never smoker died of lung cancer last month. 10 pCi/L of radon in his home for 12 years.

Sue in PA died of lung cancer. She was a stay at home mom for years and a never smoker living with high levels of radon.

Julia in Georgia a never smoker living with high levels of radon for 19 years died of lung cancer in 2004.

Charles in Maine died of cancer in 2006 and was living with high concentrations of radon in the well water.

I know of other never smokers in Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota who are still battling lung cancer and had been living with high levels of radon in their homes.

Please test your home for radon. What you don't know may kill you. The only way to know if you are living with high levels of radon is to test for it. Hopefully if you get it tested professionally it will be by a licensed and certified professional. Please take a look at www.cansar.org and see the faces and read the words of some of the people affected by radon. The surgeon general says everyone should test their home. The workplaces and schools also need to be tested. If we can get laws passed to protect the homeowner from the dangers of radon, perhaps we won't need our website any longer. Just because you can't see or smell or taste radon, doesn't mean it isn't there. It can be in any king of home, new, old, basement, no basement, brick or frame, ranch or two story. Test to find out. Hope you find a low level and if not, please have it mitigated. I wish we had done this many years ago.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 5 months ago

Ignorance is bliss. if you can't see it, taste or feel it, it can't harm you.

In routt county it is difficult to pin-point what toxins will do us the most harm. The massive coal fired plant emmissions. The redneck dropping a gear to expel a black trail of NOx from his diesel monster truck, The scorian dust, The neighbor buring a lump of coal in their fireplace with no scrubber, The milner landfill, Arsenic and mercury in the water and fish, Being exposed to intense solar radiation,

Pick your poison. The EPA under the bush administration sacrifices human health for corporate profit.

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elk2 6 years, 5 months ago

We have lived in 2 places in Steamboat with high radon levels. We installed the system ourselves, not terribly difficult. It cost us under $500 per home.

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Kevin Nerney 6 years, 5 months ago

Elk2 went you your iaqsource.com site and typed in radon mitagation and got zero results. Not really a computer guy so it might be me or else they stopped carring the supplies. just a heads up Thanks for the info anyway

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elk2 6 years, 5 months ago

Kevin, just double checked and when you type the word radon, it takes you to the fans, try again and I think you'll get to the correct page.

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 4 months ago

Ignorance is bliss. if you can't see it, taste or feel it, it can't harm you.

In routt county it is difficult to pin-point what toxins will do us the most harm. The massive coal fired plant emmissions. The redneck dropping a gear to expel a black trail of NOx from his diesel monster truck, The scorian dust, The neighbor buring a lump of coal in their fireplace with no scrubber, The milner landfill, Arsenic and mercury in the water and fish, Being exposed to intense solar radiation,

Pick your poison. The EPA under the bush administration sacrifices human health for corporate profit.

The Milner landfill has to top the list as the most harmful to our health in the Yampa Valley. They should shut the place down and move it further away from our beautiful river. Can you imagine living downstream from that place? Scary.

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