Ask Eartha: How to ensure safety in your Colorado home
I saw a radon banner hanging in Frisco on my way to work the other day. I’m curious if I need to test for radon in my townhome, and if there’s other potential health issues in my home I should be aware of?
— Nate, Blue River
While our homes are ultimately designed to provide us shelter and security, too often they fall short of expectations, trapping us in a less than ideal indoor environment. It’s easy to take for granted that our homes always have our best interests in mind, neglecting the fact that a system as complex as a home needs a check-up every so often to ensure it’s not sick. Many factors play into the health of a home, perhaps at the top of that list in our area is that invisible, odorless gas called radon.
Colorado is a known and well-documented hot-zone for radon. This carcinogenic gas is ultimately everywhere in Colorado, but randomly varies in concentration from one region to another. The rocky makeup of our soil here in Summit County provides an environment for excessive underground air movement, and thus higher potential radon levels if the gas becomes trapped in our homes. Testing for radon is something that everyone should consider doing, especially since it’s easy and currently free to test for radon in your Summit County home.
Stop by the Summit County Environmental Health Department located at 37 Peak One Drive in Frisco to get your hands on a radon test kit. These test kits include easy-to-follow instructions for setting up and mailing in the completed test and come addressed for convenience. The High Country Conservation Center also provides free radon test kits to local participants in our energy efficiency programs. Additionally, we can recommend contractors to perform the recommended mitigation work for your home if it’s found to contain high levels of radon.
While radon remains a primary concern when diagnosing and maintaining a healthy home, its merely one consideration to keep in mind. On average, indoor environments are two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air quality can be adversely impacted by fine particulates, pet dander, smoke, mold, moisture, chemicals, toxic gases and a lack of ventilation. It’s critical for a home to mitigate these potential adverse impacts on a continuous basis to keep its inhabitants healthy and safe.
Homes in Summit County with crawl spaces are especially susceptible to various indoor air pollutants. In addition to radon, a typical crawlspace that hasn’t been mitigated for radon or upgraded for energy efficiency, carries moisture and various soil gases up into a home. If left untreated, a typical crawl space will not only lead to decreased comfort and an unhealthy indoor environment but will also contribute to various building durability issues. In understanding a home as a system, our basements or crawl spaces are an ideal place to begin addressing the solutions to an unhealthy home.
Bathrooms are particularly moist environments that need to be ventilated properly to reduce the risk of microbial growth such as mold. Kitchens often contain dangerous appliances or household hazardous chemicals. Mechanical rooms too contain dangerous appliances, that if left unchecked or improperly maintained, can emit life-threatening toxins into the home. Even draperies, carpeting and furniture can trap harmful pollutants such as dust and pet dander. It’s important to keep a clean home, vacuum carpeting frequently and ensure ventilation systems such as bath fans are cleaned and turned on at appropriate times to evacuate stale air and moisture from your home.
If you’re interested in taking the first step toward improving the health of your home environment, contact the High Country Conservation Center to better understand what your opportunities are. Through a home energy assessment, our team of energy experts can diagnose potential health concerns within your home and surprise you with a deeper understanding of how your home works as a system. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the things your home does to keep you comfortable and safe and may also realize it needs a little help along the way to continue doing its job to the utmost.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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