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South Jordan Journal

SoJo takes designates January as Radon Action Month

Feb 03, 2021 11:08AM ● By Mariden Williams

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

South Jordan has joined the EPA in designating January as Radon Action Month. Most Utahans are aware of the dangers of radon, but taking steps to mitigate it and make your home safe again is another thing. Which is why this is Radon Action Month rather than merely Radon Awareness Month.

Radon is a radioactive gas, found naturally in soil all over the United States. But just because it's natural doesn't mean that it is safe or good for you. It is the second most prominent cause of lung cancer—the deadliest cancer of all—in the US after smoking. According to the EPA, it is responsible for around 20,000 deaths every year. It readily seeps into houses, particularly basements. It is invisible and has no odor. You will never know whether your house has radon in it unless you test it, and levels can rise over time, particularly when the soil is disturbed by home renovations—which is why testing for it somewhat regularly is important. 

"The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is a good resource for basic radon information and why it's a big deal. They also sell test kits. They have a very comprehensive program," said South Jordan Communications Manager Rachael van Cleave. 

Four picocuries of radon per liter of air—or 4pCi/l, as the measurement is abbreviated—is the level at which the EPA recommends taking action. The World Health Organization is even stricter, and recommends taking action for anything higher than 2.7 pCi/l. No amount of radon is completely safe, the EPA explains; four pCi/l is just the minimum amount that most tests can reliably detect. 

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality periodically releases information on radon levels by zip code. South Jordan contains 3 zip codes; in 2019, 45% percent of homes in the zip code 84095 had radon levels above 4 pCi/l, as did 35.4% of homes in the zip code 84009. If you live in South Jordan, there's a very significant chance that your home has a dangerous level of radon, which makes the city's proclamation of Radon Action Month particularly poignant. 

If you have dangerous radon levels in your house, how can you lower them? Most radon mitigation methods involve sealing up any cracks in the foundation that radon can get through, followed by venting the existing radon out through various means—simply plugging up cracks is not enough to restore a home to safe levels. 

One common method is active subslab suction, also called active subslab depressurization. This involves installing a system that collects the radon from beneath the building before it can enter, and vents it to the air above the home, where it is quickly diluted to a safe level. These systems generally consist of a plastic pipe connected to both the soil and a quiet, continuously-operating fan, which sucks the radon out.  

"Mitigation isn’t as expensive as you may think,” said radon-induced lung cancer survivor Jan Poulsen said on the Department of Environmental Quality's website. “It can typically can be done for $1,500 or less. The cost of my lung cancer treatment to date is running upwards of $1.25 million, so mitigation is pretty cost-effective if you think about it."  

According to the EPA, even homes with very high radon levels can be reduced to 4pCi/l 95% of the time, and efforts to reduce radon levels below 2pCi/l are effective 70% of the time. Even if you can't get it below 2%, reducing your radon level still reduces your risk of cancer by a lot.

The Department of Environmental Quality can direct you to reputable contractors for installing radon mitigation systems, and also sells radon tests for $10.95 each, which includes the laboratory costs of analyzing your sample. Radon tests are also sold at hardware stores such as Lowes, but don't buy them there. Hardware store tests often lure you in with a low up-front price, but then won't actually give you results until you pay a $60 lab fee.