Fighting the Invisible Threat: How Colorado Cities are Tackling Radon

Radon, an odorless radioactive gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. This invisible threat seeps into homes through cracks and openings in foundations, accumulating to dangerous levels. Long-term radon exposure greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. The EPA estimates radon causes over 20,000 U.S. lung cancer deaths annually.

While radon is a nationwide issue, certain regions like Colorado have especially high risk factors. The uranium-rich soil, cold winters, and prevalence of old homes with unfinished basements allow radon to easily enter and become trapped in indoor air. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, nearly 50% of homes in the state have high radon levels above EPA action guidelines.

Recognizing this severe public health hazard, several Colorado cities and counties have implemented robust radon mitigation programs to protect local residents. They aim to increase awareness, facilitate testing, enforce mitigation standards, and make radon reduction affordable and accessible. Here is how major Colorado jurisdictions are tackling the invisible radon threat:

Boulder County: A Comprehensive Approach

Boulder County Public Health has one of the most comprehensive radon programs in the state. The county provides excellent informational resources like radon guides, workshops, and a radon hotline to educate residents about risks, testing, and mitigation options.

Free short-term test kits are available at health offices and libraries. Boulder County maintains stringent radon-resistant building codes for new construction and additions. Contractors must be specially trained and certified to install radon mitigation systems. The county also offers financial assistance covering 75% of mitigation system costs for income-qualified households.

City of Fort Collins: Robust Mitigation Support

Fort Collins has a robust radon program lead by the municipal utility department. The city raises awareness through educational materials, a phone helpline, and free test kits available at local libraries. Fort Collins requires radon testing for many real estate transactions.

The city uses zoning data to target radon outreach and incentives to high-risk areas. Strict IRC Appendix F building codes ensure radon-resistant features in new construction. Fort Collins provides technical guidance and waived permit fees to aid mitigation in existing homes. They also offer financial assistance for radon reduction.

Denver Health: Prioritizing at-risk Residents

Denver Health takes a healthcare-focused approach to radon mitigation prioritizing testing, mitigation, and education for low-income housing residents who are most at-risk for exposure. Denver Health conducts free radon tests and facilitates mitigation system installation in public housing units when elevated levels are found.

For private homes, Denver Public Health partners with Denver Water to offer discounted test kits by mail or at local distribution sites. Denver reinforces radon-resistant building codes and requires radon testing during real estate transactions. The city also provides Spanish-language radon education materials to reach Hispanic communities.

Mesa County: Collaboration Between Agencies

Mesa County takes a collaborative approach to radon awareness and mitigation. The Public Health Department works closely with the Regional Building Department to provide radon risk information, free test kits at health offices, and educational workshops.

For mitigation, Mesa County has an agreement with the Grand Junction Building Department to waive permits for radon mitigation work in existing buildings. This incentive makes radon reduction more affordable for homeowners. Mesa County reinforces EPA protocols and Colorado state radon laws through inspections, enforcement, and training local contractors on proper mitigation strategies.

Colorado Radon Leaders Offer Hope

While radon lurks invisibly, these Colorado cities and counties actively detect risks and implement solutions. Their diverse public education campaigns, testing incentives, rigorous building codes, accessible mitigation guidelines, and creative financial assistance programs aim to protect all residents from radon-induced lung cancer. They demonstrate that through collaborative action between government, businesses, and citizens, we can tackle even invisible threats.

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