What is Radon? – Denver
Radon is a naturally occurring chemical element found in the environment. At the normal range of the Earth’s temperatures, radon is in a gaseous form that cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. Most homes have some level of radon in them, not just in Denver, Colorado, but also throughout the world.
Measuring Radon Levels
A unit of measurement called picoCuries per liter is used for describing radon gas levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes guidelines for safe levels of radon in Denver and throughout the rest of the United States. As long as radon gas levels remain equal to or less than 4.0 picoCuries per liter, the EPA usually does not recommend taking any action. At higher levels, radon has the potential to cause health problems and needs to be mitigated to ensure that your home is safe.
Elevated Levels of Radon Throughout Colorado
In cities throughout Colorado, including Denver, it is not uncommon to find elevated levels of radon due to large deposits of uranium in the soil. Uranium contains radium, the primary source of radon gas in the environment. As radium breaks down in the soil, houses in Denver become filled with the emitted radon. Because of the state’s geology, nearly half of all homes in Colorado have dangerously elevated radon levels.
Large Volumes of Radon in Denver Groundwater
Denver also lies in a region that the EPA has identified as having large volumes of radon in its groundwater. Radon gas enters water supplies from the bedrock and is typically filtered out through public water systems; however, Denver residents who rely on wells may have high radon levels in the water in their homes. Radon gas from water can then be easily transferred into the air from everyday activities like bathing and washing dishes and clothing.
Denver and its surrounding area also in a region that the EPA has deemed a “High Radon Potential Zone.” A private radon monitoring company tested radon levels throughout Colorado to identify places where residents should particularly be concerned about radon. The company concluded that 43 percent of homes in Denver County had radon levels above the EPA’s recommended action level and that the average radon level reading for homes in the county was 4.5 picoCuries per liter.
Breathing in air contaminated with elevated levels of radon gas can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Among nonsmokers, radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer throughout Denver and the rest of the United States, cautions the EPA. Radon is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers. Denver residents at a high risk for lung cancer due to other health problems or their family histories are particularly susceptible to the effects of radon gas.
Health problems from exposure to excessive levels of radon gas do not happen instantaneously. Homeowners in Denver can purchase kits to test the air quality in their own homes by visiting the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website. The tests are purchasable online or with a mail-in order form. Using one of these tests is the first step toward mitigating the amount of radon in your home.
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