The Silent Killer: Radon in Fort Collins and How to Protect Your Home

Radon is an invisible, odorless threat that lurks in Fort Collins homes, slowly endangering residents. This naturally occurring radioactive gas has become the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Prolonged radon exposure can be deadly, but many homeowners underestimate the risks right under their own roofs. Fortunately, with proper testing, mitigation, and preventative measures, Fort Collins residents can protect their families and homes from this silent killer.

The Radon Hazard

Radon forms from the natural radioactive decay of uranium and radium present in soils and rocks. It seeps into homes through cracks and openings in basement foundations and concrete slabs. Once inside, radon accumulates in indoor air, especially in lower levels and rarely ventilated areas.

As radon decays further, it releases dangerous radioactive particles that get trapped in the lungs when inhaled. These particles release small bursts of radiation that damage lung tissue over time, eventually causing cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking. Approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths occur annually due to radon according to the EPA.

Why Fort Collins Homes Are at Risk

Several factors put Fort Collins homes at higher risk for elevated radon levels:

  • Uranium-rich soils and underlying granite formations in northern Colorado produce significant amounts of radon gas.
  • The permeable gravel and sand layers prevalent in the region allow radon to flow freely.
  • Large temperature and pressure differences between indoor and outdoor air draw radon gas in through foundation cracks.
  • Most homes lack proper sealing, ventilation, and radon-resistant features. About 75% of houses in Fort Collins were built before 1990 and current building code requirements.
  • Basements, crawlspaces, and slab-on-grade foundations allow more radon entry points, especially when connected to the ground.

Testing for Radon in Fort Collins Homes

Since radon is invisible and has no odor, the only way to detect dangerous levels in your home is through a certified radon test. The city offers free short-term radon test kits at local libraries or you can hire a professional for long-term monitoring. Testing is the crucial first step to assessing your home’s radon risks.

Home buyers and sellers should test in real estate transactions of pre-1990 homes in Fort Collins. If levels above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) are found, mitigation system installation should be negotiated before closing. Homeowners should retest every 2-5 years and after major renovations or additions. Never assume your home is radon-free without testing first.

Installing Radon Mitigation Systems

If your home’s radon test comes back at or above 4 pCi/L, contact certified radon mitigation contractors immediately. The most effective mitigation method is active sub-slab depressurization (ASD). This involves installing vent pipes through the foundation floor into the ground below. A fan connected to the pipes creates a vacuum to draw radon from under the home and safely vent it outside above roof level before it can enter living spaces.

Sealing all cracks and openings is also critical. A qualified radon mitigation professional can diagnose entry points and determine the right system design for your home. Average ASD installation costs range from $1200-$2500 – a small investment in your family’s health. Always use certified contractors for radon mitigation in Fort Collins.

Taking Preventative Measures

New homes in Fort Collins must follow strict radon-resistant building codes under Appendix F of the International Residential Code. This includes sealed foundations, vent pipe pre-installation, and passive under-slab depressurization readiness. For major renovations to existing homes, radon-resistant features like foundation sealing and vent loops must be added too.

Homeowners should also caulk and weatherstrip around all openings, seal and vent appliances like furnaces and water heaters, and enhance crawlspace ventilation. Avoid converting covered crawlspaces into occupied basement rooms. Simple upgrades like a radon detector and vent fan cut the invisible radon risk.

Breathe Easier by Reducing Radon Risks

Radon may threaten our homes in silence, but we don’t have to passively accept the risk. Through education, testing, mitigation, and preventative measures, Fort Collins residents have the power to reduce radon dangers. Let’s work together, raise awareness, and take action against this invisible home invader to create safer, healthier indoor spaces across our community. The first step is simply to test your home – don’t assume you are safe from this silent killer.

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