Radon is a very harmful, potentially deadly, colorless, odorless gas that is located in approximately 50% (or closer to 75%, according to the EPA) of Colorado homes. There’s nothing anyone can do about that – Colorado is a state that sprang up over a wide and diverse area, however, geologically, the entire state shares one thing in common: it was built on top of large swathes of granite, which contains uranium. When it decays, uranium becomes another element – radium, which gives off radon gas.
Coloradoans have, quite unbeknownst to themselves, built on top of what might be called radon aquifers. As radon is a colorless, odorless gas, it enters many Colorado homes undetected. It can, unfortunately, lead to some very significant health problems, if consumed in large quantities over long periods of time.
How Can Radon Affect My Health?
One of the worst things about radon is that it is a colorless, odorless gas. You won’t know it’s there and yet you could be breathing it in. Radon gas poisoning is the second-largest cause of lung cancer among Americans after smoking and kills approximately 20,000 Americans each year.
If you live in Colorado and either lives in a newly-renovated but untested home, or an older home that hasn’t been tested yet, it is essential that you get your home tested. If you live in a home in Colorado that you think might have higher-than-safe levels of radon and are experiencing the following symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood, frequent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis – it is imperative you get to a doctor and get yourself biopsied for lung cancer. That test might save your life.
How Do I Know If My Home Contains Radon?
Unfortunately, if you live in Colorado there is an above-average chance that your home contains some level of radon for the reasons mentioned above. However, the following factors may increase the likelihood of the presence of higher-than-safe levels of radon. The EPA and the Colorado Department of Health both place the ‘safe’ level of radon in a home at 4 picocuries/liter of air. Anything below that threshold does not require immediate action, however, if your home is found to have higher levels of than 4 picocuries/liter of air, it is highly recommended that you begin mitigation efforts.
How Does Radon Get Into My Home?
Radon is a gas, which means that it can permeate your home through any and all cracks. If you’re building a new home, it is vital you ensure that the foundation is solid. Any cracks in the foundation could lead to radon seeping in. Similarly, it’s important that your walls contain no cracks. You should also check your plumbing fixtures and sump pumps or drains. Another rather scary entry point for radon is your well water. If you have a well that is roughly 20+ years old, chances are it was dug pretty deep – unfortunately, the deeper the well, the more likely it is to have come into contact with the radon ‘aquifers’. This means that your well water may be contaminated.
If you suspect that your home is a hot spot for radon due to its construction – it’s very important that you get your home tested. These tests can be purchased from the Colorado Department of Health. It is highly recommended, however, that you get your home tested by a professional – there are many businesses in Colorado that offer these services.
Suppose your home is found to have higher-than-safe levels of radon. In that case, the Colorado Department of Health recommends that you switch to a mitigation effort, rather than taking no evasive action.
How Often Should I Test My Home For Radon?
One of the most important aspects of combating the high presence of radon in a home is testing. It is highly recommended that you get your home tested at least once a year. And if you run a well, you get that well water tested every six months for the presence of radon.
If your home is found to have 4+ picocuries per liter of air, you’ll need to move to mitigation efforts.
What Are Some Mitigation Efforts Available To Me?
The first mitigation everyone should try is the natural one – it’s also free, so that’s a bonus. Open your windows in the spring, summer, and fall, let the fresh air in and create a circular airflow inside the home so that your home is constantly being filled with clean air. Alternatively, spend as much time outside as possible and get your fresh air that way. Colorado is a beautiful state to explore, spend the time outside and keep breathing in the fresh air – you should still ventilate your own home as much as possible.
In the winter months, ventilation becomes more difficult as the temperatures plummet, but you can find other ways to ventilate in the winter – look into in-home air purifiers as an option for keeping your air quality as well as can be expected while keeping out the winter cold. Again, your best bet is to spend as much time outside as possible, if you live in a high radon area.
High-radon areas are usually those built at lower elevation levels. For example, the Pikes Peak area of Colorado contains high levels of granite, which contain higher-than-usual levels of uranium – which as it decays, produces radium, which produces radon gas. Unfortunately, the expense involved in mining the uranium in Pikes Peak – and indeed all across the state – makes that solution an impossibility – there isn’t enough uranium to justify the cost of mining.
If a natural solution doesn’t work for you, or an air purifier is also incapable of reducing the levels of radon in your home, then a professional mitigation system may be required. The State of Colorado makes up $1200.00 available for those who cannot afford to pay the cost of radon mitigation systems.
Such radon mitigation systems include ventilators such as heat-recovery or energy-recovery ventilators. These are ventilation systems designed to extract moisture from the air, with an excellent in both hot and cold weather in the Colorado climate.
The most common method of radon control, however, is active-soil depressurization. This is done through the installation of a pipe between the foundation and the soil through the home, through this pipe, a special fan sucks in radon-containing gases from the soil beneath your home and expels it back outside – therefore reducing the overall levels of radon in the home. Small blowers are another option for sucking in radon-containing air particles, though this is a manual job, it gets the job done!
In general, the best things for radon prevention are good ventilation and a well-maintained HVAC system.