County is in ‘Zone One’ category for radon exposure
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Local, state and national public health officials are banding together this month to raise awareness about radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer in America.
Part of the effort is the dispensing of free radon-testing kits to anyone who wants one, in the hope that the test results will help officials determine that scope and spread of the problem – including how it affects Garfield County residents.
January has been designated National Radon Action Month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, primarily because the dead of winter is the best time to test for radon in the home, when doors and windows generally remain closed.
Radon, said Mindy Yost of the Garfield County Public Health Department, is a colorless, odorless gas that comes from the radioactive decay of uranium.
Uranium is a well-known mineral in Garfield County, which for much of its early history was home to a uranium mining and processing industry in the Rifle area.
Aside from large deposits that can be mined, however, the radioactive mineral is widely found in small amounts in soils throughout much of the state.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 52 of the state’s 64 counties are “at risk” for radon exposure, and Garfield County is in the Zone One category, which represents the highest level of risk.
The gas typically seeps into homes and other structures at points where some component of the building meets the surrounding soil, such as a basement, floor slab or foundation wall, Yost explained.
Once it is in the structure, the gas accumulates in low lying areas, and from there it can be breathed into the lungs.
Yost said the county now has only general information about radon levels here, but she is hoping that a radon testing program will improve the situation, starting with a $6,000 grant from the CDPHE that is to fund Garfield County’s part of the broader effort.
That grant, Yost said, covers the cost of 550 short-term radon tests, which typically cost between $10 and $25 at a retail store.
Currently, Yost said, there is survey information on the incidence of radon in Colorado, which is listed according to ZIP codes.
According to county data, she explained, there are 24,000 homes in the county, and fewer than 900 of them, or around 3 percent, have been tested for radon in the past five years.
Of those 874 tested homes, she reported, approximately 39 percent tested above the EPA’s recommended “action level.”
Yost also noted that a recent survey of county residents ranked radon at 19 out of 44 environmental concerns.
“The intent [with the testing program] is to help us gather more data as to the prevalence of radon in people’s homes,” remarked Jim Rada, director of the environmental health department of Garfield County.
Once the county gathers the information, he said, it can begin the process of helping its citizens deal with high concentrations of radon.
The radon test kits are available from the state for free, by mailing a coupon that can be obtained from one of the county’s public health offices, at 195 W. 14th St. in Rifle or 2014 Blake Ave. in Glenwood Springs.
To learn more about the radon test kits, or about the radon awareness program, call the health department at 945-6614 or 625-5200.
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