Routt County categorized as high risk for radon exposure
April 1, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Routt County recently was added to the list of Colorado counties at high risk for radon exposure.
With 11 other counties also added, all of Colorado now is categorized as high risk, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Radon occurs naturally in the ambient air around us and comes from the decay of uranium in soil.
"It's only when we concentrate it in our living spaces that it becomes hazardous," Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said, adding that the risk of lung cancer from radon only becomes significant after long-term exposure.
Zopf encouraged people to test their homes and said it would be easier to complete passive radon tests, which require all windows to be closed for a number of days, before warm weather makes it less comfortable.
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The Routt County Extension Office offers passive radon tests for $5. The office is located in the Routt County Courthouse annex in downtown Steamboat.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter, and a level of 4 pCi/L is the threshold above which some mitigation should be done.
Zopf said that if a test returns a level between 4 and 20 pCi/L inside a home, a second test should be done to confirm the structure needs radon mitigation. Above 20 pCi/L, mitigation should be done right away, he said.
Higher radon levels might need more involved mitigation that can be done by a certified radon contractor, but homeowners also can do some mitigation themselves.
Cracks in the foundation and penetrations through the floor by piping and wiring should be sealed. Exposed earth in crawlspaces under houses should be covered.
"The average homeowner is certainly capable of doing a lot of techniques," Zopf said.