Radon can be a concern in Colorado homes

By Roberta Tolan

SUN Columnist

January is Radon Awareness Month and surveys show that homes in most Colorado counties have the potential for radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended action level. Radon has been identified as a risk factor in developing lung cancer because it decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in the lungs. These particles release bursts of energy that damages lung tissue and it is estimated that radon may be associated with about 21,100 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas emitted from uranium, a naturally occurring mineral in rocks and soil. Normally, radon rises up through the soil and dissipates in the air outside. Radon becomes a concern, however, when it seeps through openings such as cracks, loose fitting pipes, sump pits, dirt floors, slab joints or block walls and accumulates in the home. Because radon levels are influenced by a variety of factors — soil type and moisture, how tight the home is, type of heating and ventilation system, movement of air and groundwater, air pressure and lifestyles behavior of the occupants — the only way to know if a home has elevated levels of radon is to test it.

Radon testing and mitigation

All homes in Colorado should be tested for radon, and only individual testing can determine which houses may have a radon problem. You cannot base your radon level on a neighbor’s test result, as every home is different. If tests show higher than acceptable levels of radon in the home, mitigation is needed.

The cost of repairs to reduce radon depends on how the home was built and the extent of the problem. Most homes can be fixed for $800 to $2,500. A variety of methods may be used to lower radon levels in a home, including sub-slab, drain tile, sump hole and block wall suction. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation and covering sump pump holes are basic approaches to radon reduction; however, sealing alone is not proven to significantly or consistently lower radon levels.

Radon resistance and new construction

Radon reduction methods can be planned for and installed during new home construction. The average cost to install a radon system during home construction is approximately $350 to $500, versus $1,200 after the home is built. New homes constructed with high levels of radon should include:

• A passive sub-slab or crawlspace depressurization system.

• Foundation barrier techniques such as a layer of gas permeable material under the foundation (usually four inches of gravel), plastic sheeting over that material, and sealing and caulking of all openings in the concrete foundation floor or floor above.

• Dedicated intake and/or combustion air for exhaust and combustion appliances.

• Installation of a gas-tight three- or four-inch pipe that runs from under the foundation (under the sheeting covering the soil in crawlspaces) through the house to the roof.

• A roughed-in electrical junction box for future installation of a fan, if needed.

• Homes should be tested after occupation and if radon levels remain above 4 pCi/L, the passive sub-slab system should be converted to an active system by adding a fan.

Free radon presentations and test kits available

Free presentations about radon detection and mitigation will be offered at the CSU Extension Office in Pagosa Springs on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. and again on Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. Those attending a radon presentation can pick up a free radon testing kit while supplies last. To reserve your space at a presentation, call the extension office at 264-5931. For more information on radon, testing, mitigation and resources, visit the CSU Extension website at www.ext.colostate.edu and download fact sheet 9.953 Preventing Radon Problems in the Home.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension Office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the extension office at 264-5931. We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/First Aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

Back-to-basics food preservation classes

The CSU Extension Office in Archuleta County is offering a series of classes on basic food preservation beginning Jan. 13.

Each class will cover basics of food spoilage, food-borne illnesses high-altitude adjustments and canning. Please contact the Archuleta County CSU Extension Office at 264-5931 or coopext_archuleta@mail.colostate.edu to register. Space is limited, so reservations will be on a first-come-first-served basis. Cost for the entire class series is $45 if paid in advance. Each individual class is $10 if paid in advance or $15 at the door. Each person will get to take home one jar filled with what was made and class handouts.

Class schedule:

Jan. 13 and 27 — Jams and Jellies, 1 or 6 p.m.

Feb. 10 and 24 — Whole Fruit Canned, 1 or 6 p.m.

March 10 and 24 — Pickling/Freezing/Drying, 1 or 6 p.m.

April 14 and 28 — Tomatoes and Salsa-Canned, 1 or 6 p.m.

May 5 and 19 — Vegetables/Pressure Canning, 1 or 6 p.m.