Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Also Detect Radon?

Does Carbon Monoxide Detect for Radon Gas?

Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Also Detect Radon?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a well-known threat that residents must take seriously. We know that we need to check our furnaces, water heaters, and other gas-using appliances on a regular basis and that we need to have carbon monoxide detectors in nearly every room of the house. In fact, in many states, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory by law when buying, selling, or renting a home – and Colorado is one of them. With constant updates and revisions to Colorado laws, it can be tough to keep up with the current requirements. Here is what the current law states:

Carbon Monoxide detector required by law in Colorado. … All single and multi-family RESIDENCES that have a fuel burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage that is sold, rented, remodeled, or repaired after July 1, 2009, must have a carbon monoxide detector.

Because CO detectors are so prevalent, wouldn’t it be nice if they also picked up on other harmful gases in the home? Over the years, we’ve had a handful of clients ask us if carbon monoxide detectors can also detect radon, and while we wish the answer was yes, unfortunately, we want to make sure to dispel the notion that CO detectors are able of detecting radon gas.

Colorless and Odorless Doesn’t Mean Equal

Carbon Monoxide Detector

It’s true that both carbon monoxide and radon gas are colorless and odorless – but that’s about all they have in common. CO is detectable by CO detectors – radon requires a different test entirely. Carbon monoxide poisoning results in more immediate reactions:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Radon poisoning, however, results in more long-term health effects:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pains
  • Recurring respiratory infections
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lung cancer
  • Death

While carbon monoxide poisoning is highly dangerous, it results in around 500 deaths per year in the United States. Radon, however, is estimated to be responsible for 21,000 deaths every year. For this reason, we believe that radon gas poisoning deserves just as much if not more attention than CO poisoning.

Radon Testing is the Only Foolproof Way to Detect Radon

So, to answer the question of whether or not carbon monoxide detectors also detect radon, the answer is no. CO detectors are made to do just what the name implies: detect carbon monoxide gas. Radon gas can only be detected by a radon test kit, which is a one-time use kit. The kits are easy to use and are available at your local hardware store, or online lab.


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