DENVER -- Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that seeps into basements across Colorado.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, smoking and radon are the leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking is a choice. Living with radon gas doesn’t have to be. However, a local family who discovered high levels of radon in the basement of their rented house found Colorado law doesn’t make escaping the problem easy at all.
The Boatright family recently rented a home near Denver, where they hoped to raise their family and home-school their children. However, after recently moving from California to Colorado, the kid’s classroom -- their books, scissors and toys -- are untouched in the basement of their rental house. That’s because Steve Boatright discovered a PVC pipe in the basement and questioned the owner about it.
"I asked what the pipe was for and he (the homeowner) goes, 'Oh, that’s for radon mitigation.' I said, 'What is that?'" Steve Boatright said.
Steve quickly did his research and learned radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas created by the decay of rock prevalent in Colorado. The PVC pipes are designed to mitigate the gas. If installed and working properly, the system typically can keep the gas at a safe level.
Steve decided to test the radon level himself with a common test kit. He discovered the radon level was more than twice what the EPA deems acceptable.
"Once I got that I said, 'Well, we've got to keep the kids out of the basement,'" he said.
To separate fact from fiction about radon, the FOX31 Problem Solvers found the experts at The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We probably are around it. Like I said, it’s in Colorado pretty naturally. So just in your everyday levels, it’s not a big deal. But when you’re in it concentrated amounts at high levels, that’s where people should be concerned," said Laura Dixon with CDPHE.
With this information and yet another basement test showing high levels of radon, Boatright was definitely concerned. However, Boatright and the Problem Solvers found another problem: state law offers almost no protection to renters when it comes to radon. In fact, Dixon says landlords have zero accountability.
“You have no set standards as to what a landlord has to be held accountable to, unfortunately," she said.
The Problem Solvers contacted the rental group Tremont, who in a statement said, they “take the health and safety of our tenants seriously” and have been working with contractors to “get the radon levels mitigated below the EPA’s allowable threshold."
However, Tremont also reminded the Problem Solvers “Colorado law does not require the owner to take any action.”
The company's full statement:
"We take the health and safety of our tenants seriously and have been working with licensed contractors since the issue was first reported to us to get the radon levels mitigated below the EPA's allowable threshold. The contractor is set to come out again next week to put in additional suction points below the slab and a larger fan to create more suction. Colorado law does not require the owner to take any action in this situation but the owners have chosen to continue to move things forward and have committed to continuing to work with us and the contractor until the situation is resolved."
Below are websites recommended by the CDPHE for more information about radon: