Radon, a radioactive, odorless, tasteless gas produced during the natural decay of uranium, is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and the primary cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Pitkin County, and much of Colorado, is in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “highest potential” category for dangerous radon build-up in homes, according to the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment.

However, “it’s one of the few environmental exposures that’s easy to reduce,” said city of Aspen Director of Environmental Health Lee Cassin.

Testing a home involves placing the kit in a low area of the house for a few days and then mailing it to a laboratory for analysis. The environmental health department will help residents interpret test results, which should arrive after about two weeks, and come up with solutions.

Radon seeps into homes from the ground through seal openings where pipes come into the house, gaps in the foundation, and other means, Cassin said. Outdoors, the gas dilutes to safe concentrations, but indoors it can build up and reach carcinogenic levels.

Fortunately, “there are things that can be done to get rid of Radon that are much easier than what it would take to protect yourself from things like cosmic rays and pesticides,” Cassin said, including installing fan systems and sealing leaks.
According to the EPA, 21,000 people die of radon-related lung cancers per year in the United States.
For more information call city of Aspen Environmental Health Department at 920-5039 or visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/.