New Regulations and Guidelines for Radon Testing in Colorado

New Regulations and Guidelines for Radon Testing in Colorado

Radon gas is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. It can seep into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation and accumulate to dangerous levels. Long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The state of Colorado has some of the highest radon levels in the country due to its geology and soil composition. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) estimates that 1 in 8 homes in Colorado has elevated radon levels above the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L. This highlights the importance of testing homes and buildings in Colorado for radon.

Over the years, as more data has become available on radon risks and testing procedures, regulations and guidelines for radon testing in Colorado have evolved to better protect public health. This article outlines the key regulations and updates in Radon Testing Colorado requirements and recommendations specific to Colorado.

New Testing Requirements for Real Estate Transactions

One of the most important recent changes pertains to radon testing during real estate transactions for homes built on or prior to March 15, 1988.

Previously, radon testing was recommended but not required during home sales in Colorado. However, a new radon testing law passed in 2021 made testing mandatory in real estate transactions for pre-1988 homes starting January 1, 2022.

The updated law requires sellers to provide the buyer with a radon test result report conducted within the past 5 years. If no valid test result is available, the seller must conduct a radon test before closing.

There are a few exemptions – testing is not required for foreclosure sales, some short sales, court ordered sales, or home renovated with passive radon mitigation. But in most standard home sales for older homes, a radon test is now required.

The purpose of the new real estate testing requirement is to better inform home buyers of possible radon risks and to facilitate further testing or mitigation if necessary. The radon test result report must also be shared with CDPHE.

Changes to Testing Protocols

Along with mandatory testing for home sales, the protocols for conducting radon tests have also been updated in the last few years.

The CDPHE radon program now recommends all tests be conducted for a minimum of 48 hours. Previous guidance suggested 2-7 day testing, but studies have shown the 48 hour minimum duration improves test accuracy.

CDPHE also emphasizes placing the test device:

  • In the lowest livable area of the home that is regularly used
  • At least 20 inches off the floor
  • About 6 inches away from exterior walls
  • Out of direct sunlight
  • Away from ventilation ducts

Testing accuracy is improved when protocols and device placements are consistent. CDPHE provides detailed placement tips and protocols on their website and in their free Colorado Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon.

Long term (90+ days) and short term devices (2-90 days) are acceptable. Using a certified radon measurement professional is also strongly advised.

New Guidance on Radon Mitigation

The EPA and CDPHE recommend taking action to mitigate if the radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. This guideline is based on extensive health risk data.

For real estate transactions in Colorado, if a radon test comes back at or above 4 pCi/L, the buyer can require the seller to install a radon mitigation system before closing.

CDPHE provides information on different radon mitigation techniques that can be implemented. The most common is a sub-slab depressurization system that uses a fan and PVC piping to vent radon from below the foundation.

Radon mitigation systems can also be added after moving into a home. CDPHE has a list of certified radon mitigation contractors to contact for installation.

Special Concerns in Colorado

Certain regions of Colorado have higher radon potential than others based on geologic factors. The highest risk areas include:

  • Northeastern Colorado
  • The Front Range around Denver
  • South Central Colorado

However, radon occurrence can vary from home to home. CDPHE notes that there are homes with elevated radon all across Colorado.

Other high risk home factors include uranium mining, uranium milling, or phosphate processing nearby. Newer homes and buildings may also have higher indoor radon levels.

Since geology and soil composition affects radon levels, another revised CDPHE recommendation is radon-resistant new construction. Using proper construction techniques can prevent radon entry.

Testing is the Only Way to Know Your Radon Level

The invisibility and variability of radon gas makes testing the only way to determine if radon mitigation is needed in a specific building.

CDPHE emphasizes that neighbors’ test results cannot be relied on to judge your home or school’s radon level. Testing is essential to identify health risks.

Radon test devices can be purchased from hardware stores, online, or from certified radon measurement professionals. Testing is straightforward – place the device, leave it for 48+ hours, seal it and return it to the lab. Results are usually available within a few days.

Radon Awareness and Testing Resources in Colorado

Between the new real estate testing mandate and increased understanding of radon risks, awareness and testing are increasing in Colorado.

CDPHE’s radon program offers many resources on their website including:

  • Radon risk potential maps
  • Testing guidance
  • A list of certified radon professionals
  • Radon mitigation information
  • Radon-resistant new construction standards
  • Radon education and awareness tools

There are also a number of non-profit groups focused on radon education and testing in Colorado, such as the Colorado Association of Radon Professionals and the American Lung Association in Colorado. These organizations offer hotlines, workshops, test device sales, and other resources.

The new radon regulations and guidelines in Colorado aim to improve public health and reduce lung cancer risk from radon. Through collaborative education and testing efforts across the state, exposure can be identified and mitigated. The technical knowledge and tools exist to address this serious health threat.

The key is raising awareness and testing every home and building for radon – it should be as basic a check as testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. With expanded testing, Colorado residents can better protect their health from the invisible threat of radon where they live, work and play.

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