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Home improvement project turns into safety lesson for area couple

Date Published: 09/08/2006 [Source]

Home improvement projects are never as simple as they seem, or as inexpensive.

But Anne and Jerry Beers of Pueblo West are glad they took a detour in a project last fall that cost them approximately $1,400 they hadn't planned to spend.

Their basement still isn't finished, but the air in their home in the rolling hills on the community's far west side is now safe to breathe again, according to state and federal standards.

Jerry Beers said he was beginning to install insulation when Anne ran across a newspaper story about the high prevalence of radon gas in soils along the Front Range.

Subsequent research on Web sites of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department explained further that radon is most commonly found in rocky soils, especially those that contain a lot of shale.

Anne Beers at first suggested, then insisted, that their basement be tested for the gas, which is known to cause lung cancer and other serious health problems in concentrations higher than 4 parts-per-billion in a liter of air, their research found.

Their results showed 36 parts-per-billion.

They called the Pueblo City-County Health Department, where an environmental specialist told them they needed to have (the radon level) mitigated.

Mitigation involves several steps.

First, expansion joints should be filled with polyurethane caulking compound. They also bought a simple-to-use electronic tester (the first one was a disposable unit meant for one-time use) that provides immediate readings after 24 hours, then put the new unit to work.

The air in the basement still showed a level of 16 parts-per-billion - still four times the limit deemed safe by state and federal health officials.

So the couple embarked on a quest to find a company experienced in the installation of radon-gas mitigation systems.

"That knocked our readings down to 2 (parts-per-billion), which makes us very happy," Jerry Beers said.

While researching the solution to their dilemma, the couple learned that a nearby neighbor, whose home had included some mitigating features when he bought it, also was dismayed to discover "very high" readings when he tested his house for radon gas.

Bob Steele said he had a "passive" mitigation system installed when he was having his house built more than two years ago, "but I found out that wasn't good enough."

He tested his house for radon after the couple told him of their high readings, and discovered that even with the mitigation system he had in place, his readings came back at 23 parts-per-billion.

So he also hired a specialty contractor to install a system that works with his sump pump to prevent radon gas from entering his unfinished basement.

After the $1,600 system was complete and had been running for a few days, the air tested at 2 parts-per-billion, Steele said.

The contractor who installed the Beers' system is beginning to work with a number of builders to include the exhaust systems, and other simple mitigating features, in all new homes.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/


Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can't see radon. And you can't smell it or taste it. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That's because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. Radon can be found all over the U.S. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. It can get into any type of building - homes, offices, and schools. You should test for radon. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the surgeon general recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.