Jan 24, 2023 - News

Utah's homes have dangerous radon levels

A man hammers a blue plastic square to a piece of wood in a basement.

A radon mitigation specialist prepares an outlet for a fan in Erin's basement. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

More than 40% of Utah homes have dangerous levels of radon, according to a recent report from the American Lung Association.

Why it matters: Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, second only to smoking — and the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, per the EPA.

Details: It emanates from rock and soil as elements like uranium naturally decay.

  • That means basements and ground floors of homes tend to collect the odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas.

By the numbers: The American Lung Association's analysis of the latest 10-year data from the CDC — 2008-2017 — shows 41% of Utah homes that have gone without mitigation saw radon levels higher than the EPA's safety cutoff.

  • Only 10 states had higher rates of dangerous radon levels in homes during that period.

Zoom in: The highest rates are in Emery, Morgan and Box Elder counties, where at least 60% of homes without mitigation had hazardous levels, recent CDC data for Utah shows.

  • Over 35% of Salt Lake County homes had dangerous pre-mitigation levels in 2021.

Between the lines: Radon mostly comes from uranium, so homes in areas with a lot of the chemical element in the soil have a higher chance of risky radon levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

  • Yes, but: How a building was constructed also matters, and homes in the same neighborhood can have drastically different radon levels.

Be smart: Because levels vary, the best way to confirm your home is safe is to get a radon test.

  • Tests kits usually are left in place for two to four days, and results take a couple of weeks.

How it works: If your results are higher than 4 picocuries per liter, hire a mitigation professional to fix the problem — usually by installing a vent pipe and fan to draw radon from beneath the house, per the CDC.

  • The cost is around $2,000, according to state environmental regulators, though Utah Radon Services estimates $1,400 to $1,700 for most homes.
  • If your radon levels are under 4, the CDC still recommends sealing cracks in your floors and walls and improving ventilation.

Erin's thought bubble: My family got our mitigation system this weekend.

  • Our test result was 3.9, but I write this newsletter from our basement, where we also watch TV and frequently sleep.
  • It cost about $1,300 with a referral discount from our neighbor.
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