Is Radon a Problem in the Southwest?

Radon is responsible for over 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year as well as numerous upper respiratory illnesses. No level of indoor radon is safe, making radon a serious concern for many homes and businesses in the Southwest. The majority of people often cite the EPA Map of Radon Zones, which was developed to identify indoor radon levels of the counties across the US, measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L):

  • Radon Zone 1 indicates the highest levels of radon, averaging over 4 pCi/L
  • Radon Zone 2 indicates a moderate level of radon, averaging between 2 pCi/L and 4pCi/L
  • Radon Zone 3 indicates the lowest levels of radon, averaging below 2 pCi/L

While the EPA’s maps are a beneficial tool to help understand whether your home is at risk for indoor radon, they are not perfect. As they are based on average test results, their data can be greatly skewed by several high or low readings. Though the Southwest’s overall average indoor radon levels tend to be in the mid to high end of Zone 2, there are numerous counties, particularly those of metropolitan areas, that have dangerously high levels well above the EPA’s action level.

Radon Hotspots in the Southwest

While overall reported radon levels are not as high as other regions, there are several counties across the Southwest that are radon hotspots. Radon levels can drastically vary and change over time. As such, even though state averages might be lower than other states, individual counties and even properties can show radon levels well into the upper ends of Zone 1:

  • Colorado – The State of Colorado has the 9th highest recorded levels of indoor radon in the US and highest in the Southwest, with an estimated 500 deaths per year due to radon related illness. Over 48.8% of radon tests have shown levels above the EPA’s action level of 4 pCi/L, with some reaching as high as 957.4 pCi/L. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has developed numerous resources to aid not only in the education of its people about the dangers of radon but also provide assistance to those needing mitigation.

  • New Mexico – Though most of the state shows average indoor radon levels being in Zone 2, New Mexico’s major metropolitan areas are at high risk, including Bernalillo, Taos, Colfax, and Santa Fe. The Radiation Control Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department has worked to create regulations and develop resources to protect New Mexico’s citizens from the hazards posed by radiation. This includes the Indoor Radon Outreach Program which, among other things, provides free home radon testing kits to all New Mexico residents.

  • Arizona – Compared to both other states in the Southwest and the US as a whole, Arizona’s overall indoor radon levels are relatively low, ranked 46th in the country. However, radon hotspots have been historically found in the Tucson, Cave Creek, Verde Valley, and Granite Dells areas. The AZ Department of Health Services Bureau of Radiation Control has developed a vast array of information to help educate realtors, home buyers, and residents on radon and its many health risks. This also includes information on the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tribal Partners Program which aims to increase awareness of the health risks posed by poor indoor air quality, including radon.

  • Texas – Similar to Arizona, Texas also a relatively low to moderate overall level of indoor radon with several hotspots. For Texas, most of its hotspots are found in the central part of its Panhandle and more Northwestern regions, from near El Paso up to Amarillo. However, Texas also does not require radon testing, so available data is limited, with most major resources coming directly from the EPA, DSHS, and the TTU Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering.

Regardless of whether you’re in Texas or Colorado, indoor radon exposure should not be taken lightly which is why it is imperative you have your home or business professionally tested and treated. For top-of-the-line professional radon testing and mitigation services, contact our NRPP licensed and certified radon professionals.