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What’s In Your Basement?

Jan 30, 2015 01:37PM ● Published by Karen Holt Bennion

An open house to raise awareness of the dangers of radon was held on Jan. 21 at South Jordan City Hall. Visitors were informed about the dangers of radon and how to test for the gas.

Something deadly could be lurking around the dark and dank corners of your basement, more dangerous than the bogeyman. The culprit is radon gas.

During January’s Radon Awareness Month, the topic of radon prevention was brought up at a South Jordan city council meeting and at a Radon Awareness Open House on Jan. 21, at City Hall.

Radon is a gas that originates from soil containing uranium. As the uranium breaks down, it creates this gas that can seep into homes and businesses through holes and cracks in foundation. 

The Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality sets a standard number for normal radon levels of 4.0 picoCuries per liter, or pCi/L. Long-term high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.

Resident Dennis Flynn told city officials at the Jan. 6, city council meeting that after learning about radon from a neighbor, he tested his home, which his family moved into in 2012. He was shocked to find that the results were almost 10 times the normal amount of 4.0 pCi/L. His Daybreak home, which was built in 2011, climbed to a level of 39.1 pCi/L. The home has since been mitigated and vented.

The builder had purposely left a 12-inch diameter hole in the home’s foundation, which was left uncovered. This was so that the basement could eventually be finished.

“What really makes me concerned is that our 2-year-old daughter has been living here her entire life,” Flynn said. “The health risk to her is nearly twice the risk for adults.”

When 1,114 random homes in South Jordan were tested for radon in 2014, the results were interesting. A little over 43 percent of the homes tested at 5.1 pCi/L.

Since much of South Jordan lies in areas that used to be owned and mined by Kennecott Utah Copper, the question of its uranium tailings affecting the soil came up at the Jan. 6 city council meeting.

“This could be possible. However, it’s more likely that there are just pockets of uranium stuck in the thick, clay soil that  Jordan Valley is known for,” said Alyssa Mitchell, Salt Lake County Dept. of Health educator. “The most important thing now is to educate residents of the dangers of radon and to let people know how easy it is to test for it.”

Radon test kits are available at most home stores and can also be obtained through the Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality’s website.

If a radon test comes back showing a high radon count, residents should take steps to have their homes mitigated or vented in order for the non-odorous gas to make its way outside. A passive approach to take care of radon is to have a professional install a vent. This process can reduce the gas as much as 50 percent. 

A more active manner of mitigation is to  add a fan to the vent. This method will reduce radon much more substantially. Many home developers are now educating their customers about the dangers of radon and offering to place a venting system while the home is being built.

However, there is no state law or code that requires home builders to add radon venting systems as a normal home feature. 

“It’s basically up to residents to become informed and be proactive about this deadly gas,” said Tina Brown, South Jordan communications coordinator. “That’s why this outreach program is so important.”

The open house was very well attended.

“ At least 60 people lined up in front of the locked doors right before opening,” Brown said.    
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