Kari Crist recently had her basement checked for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas. Crist, of Highlands Ranch, was spending more than 15 hours, seven days a week in an art studio in her basement. Her husband’s office is also located in that part of the home.
The level of radon in Crist’s basement was three times the limit. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends fixing homes that have levels at or above 4pCi/L.
“Not something to mess with,” Crist wrote on a Facebook page called Word of Mouth Highlands Ranch. “And if you’ve already had it checked, check it again. It can turn up later.”
To encourage homeowners to test their homes for radon, Tri-County Health Department — which serves more than 1.4 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — is providing coupons for free radon test kits.
“Although there is no safe level of radon, a simple, inexpensive test will tell you if the home you live in or are intending to buy needs to be fixed,” a media release from Tri-County Health Department says. “It is easy to test your home and radon levels can be reduced with a radon reduction system.”
Radon, a radioactive gas that forms naturally when radioactive metals break down in rocks, soil and groundwater, is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes, the CDC says.
According to the Tri-County Health Department, in Colorado approximately 500 people die annually from radon-induced lung cancer.
In Douglas County, 39.6 percent of household radon tests were above the recommended EPA action limit, as in Crist’s situation. In Adams County that rate was 24.2 percent and 44.4 percent in Arapahoe County.
Steven Chevalier, environmental health manager at Tri-County Health Department, recently bought a new home that had an average level of radon of 6.4 pCi/L. According to Tri-County Health Department, that number is comparable to having more than 200 chest X-rays every year.
“Investing in a radon mitigation system for $850 is a small price to pay for the health of our family,” Chevalier said in the media release. “The average price of a radon mitigation system in Colorado is $1,200.”
According to the EPA, the primary method used to reduce radon in a home is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.
The system does not require major changes to a home, the EPA says, and is more efficient if foundation cracks and other openings are sealed.