By now most Americans are aware that radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. For most non-smokers, radon gas is public enemy #1. But what exactly is Radon?

Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil, with a release into the air that we breathe. Radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Radon gas enters from below each home, with higher levels detected on the ground floor and lower-level living rooms.

In Chaffee County, the last four years of radon testing of homes has revealed an average radon concentration of 8.2 picocuries per liter—more than double the EPA maximum level of 4.0 pC/L. This compares to radon levels throughout Colorado, with average levels being above 8.0 pCi/L. Yet perhaps this average, as high as it may sound, may be clouding over the possibility that your indoor radon concentration could be 10x or more-higher! It is possible that extremely high levels of radon gas in Chaffee County homes exists, and the only way to know for sure is to test your home.

As the Chaffee County Environmental Health Coordinator, I have experienced many homeowners never using the free radon test kits that are given out. Often, homeowners stash the kit in the top drawer next to the tv remote control, forget about the kit, and never use it. We hope that Chaffee citizens make a New Years’ commitment to perform their free home radon test before January 31, and to ensure that indoor air quality is safely monitored and maintained.

Some residents have asked whether radon levels are higher in Salida or Buena Vista or in-between. A review of over 300 radon results have shown the following:

Buena Vista: average radon gas = 7.8 picocuries per liter

Salida: average radon gas = 7.4 picocuries per liter

The surrounding areas such as Poncha Springs and Nathrop have a limited sample size, yet are expected to reveal similar results. What ‘s vital to remember is that over 30% of Chaffee County residential homes have radon levels more than twice the EPA recommended action level of 4 picocuries.

Chaffee County Public Health currently has free radon test kits available (1 per household) in both our Salida and Buena Vista locations.

For more information regarding January Radon Action Month, visit the following website:

Chaffee County Public & Environmental Health: 

Buena Vista office: (719) 207-1498

Salida office: (719) 539-4510