What Is Radon Testing & Is It Necessary?

Radon is the byproduct of decaying uranium and can be found in large quantities under almost 50% of Colorado homes. Unfortunately for its residents, Colorado sits on a large number of uranium deposits in the soils, stemming from its geological formation.

Radon is a gas that is colorless and odorless, which is what makes it so dangerous to people’s health – you can’t see it or smell it.

When uranium decays, it gives off a large amount of an element known as radium – this sediment then further decays, which gives off radon gas.

How Do I Know If Radon Is In My Home?

The danger of radon gas in our homes - concept illustration

As mentioned, radon is a colorless, odorless gas, therefore detecting it in your home is impossible by your senses alone. If you’ve built or live in a home built in Colorado, it is very likely your home contains some levels of radon. How much radon is in your home will largely depend on several factors:

How well ventilated your home is – as radon is a gas, it is always attempting to escape into the atmosphere. Well ventilated homes help the gas to escape into the atmosphere. In the spring, summer, and fall months, you should try to keep your windows open as much as possible to help create a circular airflow and help the gas escape through as many portals as possible. In the winter, it’s essential you try to keep some sort of airflow going, however, you can – an air-purifying system might be a good idea.

How close your home is to ground level – many homes in Colorado are not built at any significant elevation, this means that the radon that is in the ground doesn’t have to travel far to enter your home. If you have a well-sealed house, it will take longer for any significant and damaging amount of radon to enter the home, as it will slowly seep in. If you’re building a home at any significant elevation, you aren’t as likely to be susceptible to high levels of radon.

How well sealed your home is – if your home is an older house you bought, rather than building for yourself, you might want to get it inspected for any significant air gaps. These air gaps are what allow radon to enter your home. So, cracks in the walls, or foundation cracks, poorly sealed plumbing and uninsulated crawl spaces, even your drains and sump pumps could be a potential entry point for radon.

If you drink your water from a particularly old well – say, 15 years or more – you should definitely get that well water tested for radon. Well, water is one of those silent killers, as people don’t know that the water they’re consuming is laced with it. Even trace amounts of radon found in well water can have serious side effects over time.

While it is impossible to seal your home against radon completely – it’s the gas that keeps on giving. There are some steps you can take to ensure you’re not breathing in enough radon to do you any significant harm. If you’re concerned about radon – and you should be – it’s very important you get your home tested for radon.

How Do I Get My Home Tested For Radon?

If you suspect you might have higher-than-safe levels of radon in your home, it is best to get it tested as soon as possible. The EPA sets the ‘safe’ standard at 4 picocuries/liter of air. If your results from your tests are under that threshold, you should take no immediate action – keep the air flowing, but there’s no need to do anything drastic. If, however, you find that the levels of radon are higher than 4 picocuries/liter of air, you should take some fairly immediate action.

This includes getting more testing done. You can either test your home yourself, by purchasing a DIY kit made available from the Colorado Department of Health. There are two types of testing kits made available for radon: short-term (3-5 days), and long-term (3-12 months). It is highly recommended by both the EPA and Colorado Department of Health you do both types of testing on your home if you’re concerned about radon.

Once you have your test results, you can proceed to the next step (if necessary), this is mitigation. If you can’t sufficiently mitigate radon by natural means – that is, ventilating your space, or spending as much time outside as possible – it is best you spend the money on a radon mitigation kit. These can run anywhere from $800-$1500 USD, depending on the design complexities of your home.

If you got your home tested by a professional, they may be able to help you with any installation of a radon mitigation kit. These professional organizations are in abundance throughout the state, professionals both in testing for radon and mitigation efforts.

How Can Radon Negatively Affect My Health?

Quite simply: radon leads to lung cancer. Extended periods of constant digesting of radon gas will make you very sick. This is why it is very important you get your home regularly tested for the presence of radon. Radon is found in higher-than-safe levels in approximately 50% of Colorado homes. It does the bulk of its damage in the winter months, as air circulation slows down and the radon has the opportunity to just hang in the air as an unseen, unknown harbinger of death.

Radon kills over 20,000 Americans every year, second only to smoking in the leading cause of the development of lung cancers. Radon poisoning can present the following symptoms: coughing up blood, wheezing, chest pains, frequent bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia, shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it is highly recommended you get your lungs biopsied for cancer, particularly if you have been confirmed to live in a home with higher-than-normal levels of radon.

If you’re looking to build or renovate a home in the state of Colorado, it is highly recommended you get it professionally tested for the presence of radon. That test may just save your life.