Walking Mountains Sustainability – January is Radon Awareness Month

Walking Mountain Sustainability Blog: Things you didn’t know about Radon.


If you have been reading our weekly Sustainability Tips you know by now that the Environmental Protection Agency has designated January Radon Awareness Month. We’ve been working to educate the Eagle River Valley and encourage everyone to pick up a free radon test kit all month long at one of the following convenient locations:

  • Avon: Walking Mountains Science Center
  • Edwards: The Pharmacy inside the Shaw Cancer Center
  • Eagle:  The Eagle County Environmental Health Department Desk

The test is simple. Fill out some paperwork and follow the instructions. Two days later mail the kit to the specified address with the provided envelope which includes postage. You’ll get an email with the results quickly.

While you lace up your shoes to hit the road to pick up your free kit here are a few things you might not know about radon:

  • Everyone breathes in radon every day, according to the National Cancer Institute. At low levels, it is harmless. However, people who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer resulting in approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, Radon levels can be greater in homes and buildings that are well-insulated or tightly sealed.
  • In 1984, an odd coincidence known as the “Watras Incident” (named for American construction engineer Stanley Watras)  led the EPA to get involved in monitoring radon levels in residential homes. Watras, an employee at a U.S. nuclear power plant triggered radiation monitors while leaving work over several days even though the plant had no fuel, was still under construction, and despite Watras being decontaminated and sent home “clean” each evening. This pointed to a source of contamination outside the power plant, which turned out to be radon levels in the basement of his home equivalent of smoking 135 packs of cigarettes a day.  The family moved out immediately, and the home was turned into a scientific laboratory for the long-term measurement of radon and the testing of radon mitigation approaches. After several months, the radon was reduced to an acceptable level and the family returned home (LiveScience & Wikipedia).