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Utah launches major radon testing effort led by experts, cancer survivors

February 8, 2024
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radon lung cancer

Radon Testing Effort - In Utah, 1 in 3 homes has a high level of radioactive radon, a cancer-causing, naturally occurring gas that rises from the ground and into buildings. According to Dr. Wallace Akerley, a medical oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

This month, a consortium of radon-induced lung cancer survivors, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the University of Utah's Radon Lab, Akerley, radon professionals and UtahRadon.org are hoping to spread awareness about radon-induced lung cancer in Utah.

The group of advocates announced a goal for testing during the winter months when radon levels are highest.

"Radon is responsible for 21,000 deaths per year from lung cancer," Akerley said. "In Utah, we would like to have at least 21,000 people have a radon test performed in their house by Feb. 14."

It's imperative that every Utahn test. Recognize that if you test, you can fix it.

–Eleanor Divver, Utah Department of Environmental Quality

The hope is to recognize and honor the estimated 21,000 Americans that die each year from radon-induced lung cancer, while also matching or exceeding the rate of testing that occurred in Utah in 2023.

"It's imperative that every Utahn test. Recognize that if you test, you can fix it," said Eleanor Divver, radon project coordinator at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality

Divver also shared that if you have other pulmonary issues, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema, radon can have a cascading impact, and that testing is crucial.

To meet the radon testing effort goal, Utah Radon Services is donating 21,000 free radon tests to UtahRadon.org. If a home tests high for radon, a certified radon mitigation company can install a permanent system in the home that will reduce the radon levels. Typically, this takes less than a day and costs between $1,700 and $1,900.

Non-smoking lung cancer is all too familiar to many Utahns, including Todd Smith, a Utah resident who lost his wife to the condition in late 2023.

"It didn't make sense that she had cancer. We didn't see it coming," Smith said. "Losing somebody to something like lung cancer is devastating. But, at the same time, there are also things you can do to avoid something like that."

Watch the video below to learn more about Todd's story.

Todd joined other community members such as Kerri Robbins, who received a stage 4 non-smoking lung cancer diagnosis after exposure to radon in her home, in advocating for awareness and testing.

"My diagnosis came because I did not know about radon. Our home's level was 31.3 pCi/L — it was like I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day," Robbins said. "It's so important to find out about radon and get a free test."

Since her diagnosis, Robbins has been on a mission to encourage every Utah resident to test for radon.

Watch the video below to learn more about Kerri's story.

To help reach the statewide goal and protect you and your loved ones, order your free radon test at UtahRadon.org. Click here to order a free test.

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