Radon Frequently Asked Questions
- What is radon?
Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas created during the natural decay of uranium in the soil. Radon is everywhere, and Colorado has higher concentrations than other regions. Radon gas is drawn into homes and other buildings through cracks and openings in basements, crawl spaces and slabs. Radon levels vary from house to house and have nothing to do with age, quality or upkeep of the home.
- Why is radon a concern?
Radon gas has been shown to cause lung cancer in people who are exposed to elevated levels over a long period of time. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recommends radon reduction if your home level exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). If you smoke and your home has an elevated radon level, your risk for lung cancer is especially high. Test for radon in your home! Radon is easy to test and easy to fix.
- What are radon levels in Fort Collins?
Thousands of Fort Collins homes have been tested for radon by individual homeowners and private radon testers. Test results indicate that three out of four Fort Collins homes have radon levels of 4 pCi/L or above. But don't let these numbers scare you away from Colorado! Radon is a problem that can be fixed.
- Is radon causing me to be sick?
Probably not. There are currently no known symptoms of short-term exposure to radon at the levels typically found in homes. It takes years of exposure at relatively high levels, and the known symptoms are similar to those for smoking related lung cancer.
- Can radon affect my drinking water?
If you use a well for your drinking water supply, radon can also enter your home through well water. If your home has a high radon level in the air (4 pCi/L or more) and you have a well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at (303) 692-3090.
Testing and Mitigation
- How do I test for Radon? Where can I get a radon test kit?
Testing your home for radon is simple and inexpensive. Here are a few options:
The City of Fort Collins sells discounted short-term ($6) and long-term ($20) radon test kits that allow you to test your own home. Click here for details and instructions on how to use these test kits. They are available for purchase at the Fort Collins Senior Center (1200 Raintree Drive).
Hire a professional. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has links to radon measurement and mitigation contractors that are certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program and the National Radon Safety Board. You can use these links to find qualified radon contractors in your area.
Sign up for a Healthy Homes Assessment. These free assessments provide a comprehensive look at factors in your home related to indoor air quality, health and safety. Each assessment includes a free short-term radon test. Visit Healthy Homes to learn more or schedule an assessment.
- How do I get the result for my radon test kit?
The testing lab will email your results to you as soon as they process your test kit. If you don't hear from them within a couple weeks, contact us and we can usually track down the result for you.
- Who can I hire to test my home for radon?
- How accurate is the test kit I bought?
There are several factors that can cause radon levels to fluctuate in your home including the temperature, barometric pressure and ventilation in your home. Short-term tests take 3-5 days and record a radon "snapshot" based on those conditions. Long-term tests can take up to a year and give a more representative picture of the radon levels in your home over time.
Any measurement system will have variability in accuracy. If used properly, these radon test kits provide accurate and reliable results relative to the testing conditions.
- How can radon levels be reduced?
Don't be discouraged if you find elevated radon concentrations in your home! Radon problems can be prevented by installing a radon mitigation system. A plastic pipe is connected to the soil beneath a slab, basement or crawl space floor and then extended to the outside of the home, where radon gas is harmlessly exhausted into outside air. A continuously-operating fan ensures the system's effectiveness.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) provides an updated list of certified radon measurement and mitigation contractors certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program and the National Radon Safety Board.
Real Estate, Landlord/Tenant
- Am I required to test for radon?
No, although City code does not require radon testing or mitigation, we urge everyone to test their home for radon. Fort Collins City Code requires that sellers provide a copy of the City's informational brochure to all buyers of residential property at point of sale (prior to the execution of a contract on a home). The “seller” may be a realtor, home-owner, attorney or any other person acting on behalf of the seller.
Colorado law requires that homeowners inform buyers if they are aware of a radon problem in the home they are selling. A radon problem means the home has been tested and the test indicated levels of 4 pCi/L or higher.
- Do new homes require radon systems?
Yes. After January 1, 2005, all new single-family and duplex housing in Fort Collins must be equipped with a radon reduction system during construction (Fort Collins Building Code - Appendix F). The system frequently relies on passive ventilation, thus avoiding the need for a fan, and can be concealed within the internal skeleton of the home.
Testing has shown the passive system reduces radon by half, on average. However, 35% of new homes still exceed 4 pCi/L with the required system installed. Homeowners should test for radon and, if further reduction is needed, have an in-line fan installed in the space provided. To learn more, call Fort Collins Building and Zoning at (970) 221-6760.
- What should homebuyers and sellers know about radon?
When buying a home in Fort Collins, take time to test radon levels. If your dream home has high radon levels, does this mean you should walk away? Absolutely not! There are ways to effectively reduce radon levels in your future home. Of all the problems that a house can have, radon is one of the most easy to identify and fix. Radon can be reduced, either before you buy a home, or after you buy it and move in.
Appendix F of the Fort Collins Building Code requires radon-resistant new construction. All single-family homes and duplexes must be equipped with a passive radon-reduction system during construction. Radon information is required at point-of-sale in residential real estate transactions.
70% of Fort Collins Homes Have Radon Levels above EPA Acceptable Levels! The good news is, you can test your home for radon levels and fix any problems you find.
- Can I make my landlord mitigate radon because it's high?
There is no city, county or state ordinance that requires any homeowner, including landlords to mitigate radon. If you've tested and found high levels and your landlord refuses to mitigate for radon, Neighborhood Services offers mediation for landlord-tenant issues.
- Can a tenant break a lease if there are high radon levels and the landlord refuses to mitigate?
The City would not be involved in a lease dispute related to radon. However, the Colorado Revised Statutes § 38-12-503 contain more information on the breach of warranty of habitability as it relates to health and safety.