Summit County Warns About Radon

The past year has been overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic.   But Summit County is reminding citizens about another health hazard—since January is Radon Action Month.  

Summit County’s Environmental Health Director Nate Brooks said that radon is radioactive, undetectable to ordinary senses, and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking.   He said it leads to 20,000 deaths a year.   

“It’s really big right now because this is the time of year when we don’t ever open our windows, we’re keeping the cold out, so our houses are on lockdown.  It creates an environment that the gas cannot escape naturally, out of the breakdown that’s happening beneath our foundations and our floors.   So in our basements, it’s extremely susceptible, because the naturally-occurring uranium that’s breaking down goes into our homes through cracks and crevices, and we wouldn’t know it.  You can’t smell it, taste it, see it.  The only way you can detect it is by testing.”

We asked if it’s a significant problem in Utah.    

“The average home in Utah has about a 5.3 picocurries per liter.  And the EPA action level is 4.0.  Obviously this is an average, but across the state, it is a little more elevated than what the EPA deems as being safe.   So, yes, it’s more common, especially in a mining community, in Coalville, Park City areas, it could be elevated.   And it could be your house is higher than your neighbors right next to you.  So that’s why it’s important we test.”

Brooks said they recommend an annual test, since the earth around your home is always moving.

He said a radon test kit is very easy to use.     You can purchase one for $10 from the Health Department, but call in advance, at 333—1500.       

“It’s simple.   You open the test kit at home, usually in your basement, let it sit for about three days, you package it up and send it in, and they will send you the results.  (Leslie) If you don’t have a basement, where would you put it?  (Brooks) If you just wanna place it in your home where it’s not gonna be disturbed, that would work just fine as well.”

If your test shows significant levels, Brooks advised not to panic.   It’s a fairly common problem in Utah and solutions are available.     

“We do have a lot of very certified and technical people that can figure these out.  They come in.   They would bore a hole into the foundation, into the floor, and they simply get underneath the concrete slab, and they put in a suction-pump exhaust system which pumps the gas up and out and above the roof of the home.   So it basically bypasses the home.   And this works well because it reduces, if there’s asthma triggers, air particles, VOCs, or mold, it’s gonna suck all of that out and put it up out of the homes.”

Summit County Environmental Health Director Nate Brooks.