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Health Department Reminds Wasatch Back Residents To Test For Radon

courtesy of Summit County

Local health departments are encouraging Wasatch Back residents to test their homes for an element that the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Testing for Radon is a relatively simple process, that could decrease health risks for households in the Wasatch Back. Summit County Health Department Environmental Health Scientist Kelly Gallo explains that Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally occurring.

"It’s colorless, odorless, tasteless, and the only way that you're going to know whether it is in your home is through testing,” Gallo explained. “It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. 21,000 deaths per year, but if you're a nonsmoker this is the leading cause of lung cancer.”

Summit County provides free testing kits to households with new children and low-income families. Others can purchase tests for $10 at all Summit County and Wasatch County Health Department locations. Tests can also be purchased at hardware stores.

“It's very easy to do,” Gallo said. “It's just a charcoal packet then you hang up for about three to seven days and mail it back in again.”

Gallo says testing doesn’t necessarily need to be done every year but it’s good to check every few years.

“Particularly if you've had any shifting in your home which would allow for more cracks and more opportunity for Radon to come into your home,” Gallo continued. “Wintertime is the best time to test. Your house is all closed up and the pressure changes from heating your home could be adding more Radon to your home in the wintertime as well.”

Although Radon is an issue nationwide it is especially prevalent in Utah.

“In the United States one in 15 homes has high levels of Radon, here in Utah, one in three homes,” Gallo explained. “Now the EPA recommends that the action limit is four picocuries per liter and here in Summit County the average test is 5.2 picocuries. That's an average of the testing that's happened here in Summit County, so we've had tests that have been over 300 picocuries per liter, and then we have lots of tests come back negligible with almost no Radon detectable.”

If your short-term Radon test reveals your home might be at risk, Gallo says they recommend a long-term test and then mitigating the impacts of the Radon through a certified company. The Department of Environmental Quality has a website list of certified mitigators. The mitigation process includes a ventilation system that removed the gas from a home, mitigation can cost somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000. You can learn about Radon here.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.