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Radon resources

Everything you need to know about radon in Utah

Learn the basics of radon

What is radon? Why is it dangerous? Where is radon located? Learn radon basics here.

Frequently asked radon questions

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It comes from the decay of uranium deposits in the soil. Like carbon monoxide, it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. The only way to detect it is to test for it.

Radon is a Class A carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer. In fact, it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States (and the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers). When radon is inhaled, small radioactive molecules can get trapped in the lungs. As these break down, they emit harmful alpha particles that can damage the DNA, resulting in cancer.

While several areas in Utah have significantly higher radon levels on average, radon is literally everywhere. Even the outdoor air we breathe has small amounts of radon. This is due to the amount of naturally occurring uranium deposits in the ground throughout the state. Radon levels often vary between two homes built in close proximity to each other. This is simply due to how much uranium is in the ground directly beneath the home. Because of this, it’s crucial for all Utah residents to test their homes for radon. 

Interesting fact: During the Cold War, Utah became one of the largest uranium exporters in the United States, even being nicknamed “The Wall Street of Uranium.” Uranium was used to make nuclear reactors in wartime and is now used to fuel nuclear power plants. Uranium mining in Utah continues today at a much lower rate than in the 1950s, but the rich uranium deposits throughout the state remain.

Radon can be detected through several different methods. When conducted properly, all methods provide accurate results. The most common radon testing methods are:

  • Activated charcoal adsorption 
    • How it works
      • Adsorbs radon gas into the activated charcoal grains. The adsorbed gas decays into radioactive decay products, which are gamma-ray emitters. The radon level is determined by counting the gamma emissions of the radioactive decay products. 
    • Advantages
      • Easy to use, economical, and provides results within a few days.
    • Disadvantages
      • Sensitive to excessive humidity and only provides an average radon level.       
  • Electret ion chamber
    • How it works
      • Radon atoms diffuse through a filter where alpha particles are emitted. The alpha particles separate electrons from the oxygen and nitrogen atoms. These electrons reach the Teflon electret surface and deplete a portion of its charge. The difference in the charge before and after the test is measured to provide the radon level. 
    • Advantages
      • Easy to use, reusable, and provides results within a few days. 
    • Disadvantages
      • Sensitive to altitude and external gamma radiation and only provides an average radon level.
  • Continuous radon monitor
    • How it works
      • Radon atoms diffuse through a filter where alpha particles are emitted. The alpha particles separate electrons from the oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Negative ions pulse against the chamber’s positively charged pole, and the positive ions pulse against the chamber’s negatively charged pole. These pulses are recorded and then interpreted into a radon level. 
    • Advantages
      • Continually tracks radon levels at specific intervals (typically hourly), usually provides data that can be displayed on a mobile phone for monitoring, and can be used continuously for many years. 
    • Disadvantages
      • Costs more than other testing methods.
  • UtahRadon.org has established a discount with Ecosense. Use promo code E-UtahRadon for 5% off a continuous radon monitor. 

Radon gas is measured in pico curies per liter of air (pCi/L). It is a measurement of the concentration of radioactivity in the gas. 

There is no safe radon level, and all levels pose a risk; however, reducing radon levels to zero isn't feasible. Even the outside air has an average of 0.4 pCi/L. The goal is to have the lowest radon level in the home possible. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) have established thresholds at which fixing the problem (a process called radon mitigation) is strongly encouraged. The EPA recommends “considering” installing a radon mitigation system if a home tests at 2.0 pCi/L or higher and strongly recommends mitigation at 4.0 pCi/L or higher. The EPA’s recommendations were created almost 40 years ago when mitigation technology was limited. The WHO released its recommended mitigation threshold in 2009 at 2.7 pCi/L. Both the EPA and WHO agree there is no safe level of radon, and homeowners should do anything they can to reasonably reduce their exposure to radon. In most cases, modern radon mitigation techniques can reduce radon to 1.0 pCi/L or below. 

Sub-slab depressurization (SSD) is the most effective technique for significantly reducing radon gas in a home. The goal of SSD is to redirect radon gas away from the home’s foundation and into the outside air, where it quickly dissipates. This is done by first digging a small suction pit underneath the home’s foundation. About three five-gallon buckets of material are removed. Next, a floor bushing is installed to create a tight seal around the hole. A pipe is then inserted into the floor bushing which is then connected to a radon fan. The fan can be located in the attic of the home (interior system) or on the outside of the home (exterior system). The fan draws the radon gas from the suction pit, through the pipes, and then to the outside air at or near the roof level. These systems are a permanent addition to the home and will keep radon levels low as long as the system is working properly.

The cost of installing a radon mitigation system depends on several factors, including the size and layout of the home and if there are any exposed dirt areas (e.g. crawlspace). For a typical home in Utah, the cost ranges from $1,800 - $2,300. If more than one suction pit and/or system needs to be installed, or if there are exposed dirt areas that need to be covered with a vapor barrier, the cost will be higher.

Because radon is a Class A carcinogen, only National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) certified individuals can install radon mitigation systems. When selecting an individual/company to install a system, we recommend checking to ensure they are certified, reading their Google Reviews, and asking them about their warranty. Be leery of any individual or company that provides a quote well below the average ($1,800 - $2,300) as they are likely not certified or may be excluding important components of the system that they may try and charge you at the time of installation. 

Save your lungs and dollars

A few ways you can save money and ensure your home is safe from radon.

Radon Sampler Test
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