The Step-by-Step Guide to Checking Your Home for Radon

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that seeps into homes through foundations, accumulating to dangerous levels inside. Prolonged radon exposure substantially increases your risk of developing lung cancer. The Surgeon General warns that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking. Fortunately, affordable home radon testing kits make it simple to detect if your household is at risk. This guide provides everything you need to accurately test radon in your Fort Collins home.

Understanding the Radon Threat

Radon arises naturally from the decay of uranium present in nearly all soil and rock. It enters homes through small cracks and openings in the foundation floor and walls where it becomes trapped inside. Radon also dissolves in groundwater from private wells which gets released into the air during water use.

As radon decays further, it forms radioactive particles that lodge in our lungs when inhaled. These particles release small bursts of radiation that damage lung tissue over time, eventually causing cancerous cell mutations. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The EPA estimates 21,000 lung cancer deaths occur annually in the U.S. due to radon exposure.

How Radon Testing Works

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas, so the only way to detect if it’s present in your home is through a certified radon test. Special devices measure the radon concentration in the air over a set period of time. The radon test device is known as a radon detector. After exposing the detector in your home, it gets sent to a lab for analysis. Test kits are simple to use and inexpensive.

The most common radon detectors for home testing are:

  • Passive Test Devices – These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors. You open the device in your home and leave it in place for 2-7 days before resealing and mailing it to a lab.
  • Continuous Radon Monitors – These electronic testing devices remain in your home for up to one year. The monitor records and gives a long-term average radon level rather than a snapshot.

Testing kits are available through certified radon professionals, many state health departments, and online retailers. The EPA recommends using a National Radon Proficiency Program certified tester for the most accurate results.

When and Where to Test for Radon

The EPA and most states recommend testing all homes for radon regardless of geographic location or foundation type. Even new homes should be tested after occupancy. Here are some key radon testing guidelines:

  • Test in the lowest livable space of your home like the basement or first floor. Radon concentrations are typically highest here.
  • Perform an initial short-term test for 2-7 days during normal home operating conditions.
  • For more precise measurements, follow up with a long-term test over 3-12 months using a continuous radon monitor.
  • Retest your home every 2 years or after major renovations, foundation work, or installations like a heat pump which can shift radon levels.
  • Test in both cold and warm weather because heating and cooling changes ventilation.

How to Test Your Home Step-by-Step

Follow these simple steps to accurately test the radon level in your home:

  1. Purchase an approved short-term test kit online or from your state’s radon program. Carefully read all enclosed instructions before beginning.
  2. Determine the best test location, ideally in the lowest level or most frequently occupied room. Place kit 20-48 inches off the floor away from windows, doors, vents, and exterior walls if possible.
  3. Open the test kit, remove any protective packaging, and set according to the directions. Note the start time and date.
  4. Leave the test kit undisturbed in location for the minimum 48 hours up to 7 days, while maintaining normal home ventilation and occupancy.
  5. After the testing period, close the kit following the sealing instructions and note the stop time/date.
  6. Complete the data card, including start/stop time, test location, mailing date, and occupant information.
  7. Mail the test kit immediately to the certified lab using the mailing envelope provided. Results will be sent to you within 1-2 weeks usually.

Understanding and Acting on Your Radon Test Results

The lab report will reveal your home’s radon level in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA and most states recommend fixing levels at or above 4 pCi/L. If your result is high, contact a certified radon mitigation contractor immediately to discuss system installation so you can reduce radon risks.

With affordable home test kits, anyone can quickly detect if their household is affected by radon dangers. Follow the step-by-step testing guide, take action if results indicate a problem, and breathe easier knowing your family is protected.

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