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EPA announces major investment in healthy homes for Pueblo County

Release Date: 11/17/2009
Contact Information: USEPA: Richard Mylott 720 581-8244; Michael Wenstrom 303 312-7009; Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo: Margaret Barber, 719 489-2078

(Denver, Colo. -- November 17, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined elected officials and partners from the Pueblo community at the Pueblo County Courthouse today to award a $280,273 grant to Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo. The grant, awarded under EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program, will be used to fund activities to address risks from radon, lead, mold and household chemicals in homes across Pueblo County.  Pueblo is one of nine communities across the nation receiving a Level II CARE grant to address community identified environmental health issues. 
 
"EPA’s CARE program is about helping communities where there is a strong local commitment to identifying and solving environmental problems, and we certainly have that here in Pueblo,” said Art Palomares, Director of EPA Region 8’s Environmental Justice program. “This grant is a testimony to the agencies, health advocates and citizens who live in Pueblo County. Today, we are collectively making a very real investment in the future health of adults and children throughout the community.”
 
Today’s ceremony included representatives from EPA, the Pueblo County Commissioners, the Pueblo City-County Health Department, local officials and health experts. The grantee, Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo, will use the grant to help fund activities under the Pueblo Area Clean Indoor Air Initiative, including programs provided through the Health Department. 
 
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to improve health and even save lives in Pueblo,” said Margaret Barber, President of Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo. “We will now be able to provide access to tools that reduce exposure to radon gas, lead paint and paint dust, mold and hazardous household chemicals.”      

Radon is one of the primary health issues identified by the Pueblo community under a $96,000 CARE grant awarded to Citizens for Clean Air in Pueblo in 2006. As in much of the Mountain West, many areas in Pueblo County have the potential for elevated radon. More than 50% of the homes tested in Pueblo County exceed EPA’s recommended radon action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Some test results show an average almost three times the action level at 11.2 pCi/L.   According to the Surgeon General, up to 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year can be attributed to radon exposure. 

 
“The good news is that no matter how high they are, radon levels can be brought down dramatically,” said Barber.  “We intend to make Pueblo a model for other communities who want to address radon exposure in a comprehensive way.”

In addition to educating the public on the importance of radon testing and mitigation, the grant will be used to encourage use of Radon Resistant New Construction techniques and will also help fund classes for do-it-yourselfers, builders and realtors and free on-site consultations for contractors. By combining this with other resources, the Pueblo Area Clean Indoor Air Initiative will be able to offer free radon testing to homeowners and conduct mitigation work for some low-income households. 

A portion of the CARE grant will also be used to address lead exposure in Pueblo. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 70% of all homes in Pueblo County were built prior to 1978 and may have paint containing lead. Other potential sources of lead include contaminated soils near old industrial sites. As of 2004, the average elevated blood lead level rate for children in Pueblo County was 21.3 per 100,000. 
 
For more information on EPA’s CARE grants visit: http://www.epa.gov/care/
For more on radon, visit: http://www.epa.gov/radon/