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Surveys show that homes in most Colorado counties have the potential for radon levels above EPA’s recommended action level. Because radon levels are influenced by a variety of factors—soil type and moisture, how “tight” the home is, type of heating and ventilation system, movement of air and groundwater, air pressure, and lifestyle behavior of the occupants—the only way to know if a home has elevated levels of radon is to test it. 

All homes in Colorado should be tested for radon. Only individual testing can determine which houses may have a radon problem. You cannot base your radon level on a neighbor’s test result. Every house is different. Measuring radon levels in the home is simple and inexpensive. Test kits include complete instructions and return postage for mailing samples back to the lab for analysis. 

Short-term detectors (such as charcoal canisters) are used for two to seven days. They provide quick screening measurements indicating potential radon problems. Short-term detectors should be placed in the lowest livable level of the house, preferably during winter. Long-term detectors (such as alpha track detectors) are left in place for three months to one year. They provide the advantage of averaging seasonal variations associated with radon levels. Long-term detectors are generally placed in main living areas. 

Radon test kits cost from $10 to $25 for a short-term kit and $25 to $40 for a long-term kit. Test kits are available from hardware and home improvement stores, or through mail order companies. Many communities provide free test kits at county offices, senior citizen centers or other locations. 

When buying a test kit, select one approved or listed by the EPA and follow the instructions carefully. If you do a short-term test, close windows and outside doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the testing period. Instructions are specific as to placement and the importance of not disturbing the test kit while it is monitoring the radon level of a home. 

Homes that have a basement or combination slab-on-grade and crawlspace should be tested in each area due to potential differences in radon levels. Generally, radon levels are highest in the lower levels of the home. For this reason, some homeowners prefer to test in the basement and first floor, especially if they are used for living and sleeping spaces. 

Once the test is finished, reseal or close the container and send it to the lab specified on the package right away. The lab fee for interpreting the results is usually included in the original cost of the kit. You may choose to have radon measurements performed by a professional. 

(Source: "Radon in the Home," Tremblay)