Home radon levels high in Routt
September 23, 2009
Greg Pohlman, a local certified radon mitigation provider, will be on Thursday’s “Steamboat Today” morning show on Steamboat TV18. Tune in to Channel 18 about 7:50 a.m. to see the interview.
If you go
What: Radon mitigation clinic
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Commissioners Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.
Call: Routt County Extension Office at 879-0825 for more information and to reserve a space; space is limited
Steamboat Springs — Home radon levels are testing higher than expected in Routt County, and the local Extension Office is hoping a free clinic Thursday will help residents protect themselves from the danger.
Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that is thought to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is a byproduct of uranium that seeps into the air from the ground and can become concentrated at dangerous levels inside homes. According to a Colorado State University fact sheet, “it is estimated radon may be associated with about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.”
Routt County Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Karen Massey said Thursday’s clinic – which is from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs – is made possible by a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and will provide valuable information for free.
The clinic’s timing is appropriate. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization called for stronger action against indoor radon.
“We want people to know (radon mitigation is) relatively easy, and it can be fairly low cost if they know how to do it right,” Massey said Monday.
Doug Kladder, author of “Protecting Your Home From Radon,” will broadcast from his office at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology in Colorado Springs. Massey and Greg Pohlman, a local certified radon mitigation provider, also will participate in the clinic.
“Overall, 40 percent of homes in Colorado and schools are known to have heightened levels of radon,” said Kladder, who said his primary message at Thursday’s clinic will be “all homes can be fixed.”
Routt County is designated as a moderate-risk area for radon by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning the average home is predicted to have radon levels between 2 and 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air. The latter level is the threshold at which the EPA recommends taking action. With exposure to radon at 4 pCi/L during a lifetime, a nonsmoker’s risk of contracting lung cancer from radon exposure is about the same as dying in a car crash, according to the EPA. The risk increases for smokers, for former smokers and at higher radon levels.
In its press release Tuesday, the World Health Organization recommended the United States lower its action threshold to 2.7 pCi/L, which nearly doubles the estimated number of U.S. homes needing radon control systems from 8 million to 15 million.
With the exception of Eagle County, Routt County is surrounded by counties designated as high-risk areas by the EPA, and Massey thinks Routt’s radon risk may be higher than estimated. She bases that claim on test results gathered since the extension office started providing free radon test kits to county residents.
“We have over the last several years done a lot of testing and found that there’s more radon than we expected,” said Massey, who said free test kits are still available at the Extension Office in the Routt County Courthouse annex. “You don’t know until you start testing.”
Test kits also are available at hardware and home improvement stores, and range in cost from $10 to $40. The cost of reducing radon levels in a home can range from $800 to $2,500 for an existing home.
Installing systems during new home construction is as inexpensive as $350 to $500. A typical and effective radon mitigation system is called “sub-slab depressurization.” It involves piping from a permeable layer below a structure upward through the structure and out the roof, which funnels radon gas through and outside the home.
Such systems are a component of the Routt County Regional Building Department’s pilot Green Building Program. The program is voluntary in its first year but may become mandatory.
“Green buildings are designed to provide healthy homes and healthy environments in the homes,” Building Official Carl Dunham said. “All homes should have radon mitigation at some point or another.”