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Radon in Utah

Eleanor Divver, Radon Coordinator with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, explains what radon is, why it is dangerous, and how to test for it.

What is radon, why is it dangerous, and how to test for it

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Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among our nonsmokers. It's the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Overall, we see about 21,000 deaths per year [in the U.S.] from radon induced lung cancers. I would say their biggest question is, why do I not know about radon? Why have I never heard of radon? I just got a diagnosis of stage three lung cancer, stage four lung cancer, and the oncologist has asked me to test my own for radon. And it comes back in the teams or higher, they know they're able to recognize that the lung cancer came as a result of the radon. And if they had known to test for radon and mitigate, they would have. So they just ask, why have I never heard of it? And it's a great question, why have we not done more to educate the public about what radon is? That it's easy to test for, that it's easy to fix.

So we see one in three homes having elevated radon levels. It's why it's imperative that you test in Utah. We're a mining state. We see mining everywhere. That means that there's lots of uranium in the soil, there's lots of different rocks, different minerals in the soil. And so we need to make sure we're testing our homes. We recommend to get started using the short term activated charcoal test kit. You're going to deploy that in the lowest living level of your home. You will take the plastic wrapper off, you will put it on a tv tray, a nightstand, and right in the middle of the room is what we recommend. We typically say, EPA typically says that if you're at 10 picocuries, that is like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. So if you have 20 picocuries, you're smoking two packs of cigarettes every day.

So when I get calls, it is heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to share with loved ones and the individuals surviving cancer to say to them, yeah, if you would have just tested for radon, you might have protected you and your family from this lung cancer diagnosis. If you test and you have high levels, you can fix it and you can save a life.

It's a fairly easy home improvement. They will go in and they'll drill a five inch circular hole with a diamond bit in the slab of your home. And then they're going take underneath that slab and pull out any pea, gravel, soil, clay, whatever happens to be underneath there. Then with PVC and a pipe, they're going to be able to pull that radon out from underneath your home and successfully make it so that your family is protected from radon gas.

-- Eleanor Divver speaks out on radon - Utah Department of Environmental Quality

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