Our Saga with Radon

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our saga with radon starts in early December, when I came across an article on KSL.com about a man in Cottonwood Heights who parts of both lungs to lung cancer caused by radon gas in his home - never smoked a day in his life. (We've since found out that this wonderful man is the president of the stake that some of our friends attend.)

Now, I had actually heard about radon gas several years ago. For some reason there were some concerns in the area we lived in in Colorado back when I was in high school, and my parents had talked about doing some testing, but never got around to it. But at least I knew sortof what it was.

Fast forward about 20 years...but it just never occurred to me to have it tested in my own home once I "grew up". And until I read the article recently and did a little studying, I had NO IDEA how pervasive the radon problem was in Utah! Studies estimate that approximately 1 in every 3 Utah homes could test high for radon gas.

But it's not just a problem in Utah - it can affect any home, anywhere.

Radon gas is produced by the breakdown of uranium and other minerals in soil. It escapes out of the soil, through your foundation and into your home. It is ODORLESS, TASTELESS, INVISIBLE and worst of all, RADIOACTIVE! Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States!!! [Now, just because you have radon in your home doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get lung cancer - it just puts you at higher risk.]

After reading the article, I finally figured enough was enough, and it was time to bite the bullet and order some tests. We live very close to the western Oquirrh mountain foothills (in the lower elevations) near a canyon and near a huge copper mine - which puts our property at greater risk for higher concentrations of radon due to the higher granite and mineral content of the ground underneath us.

So we ordered our tests. Did it online, in just a matter of minutes. Super easy. And for those who live in Utah, there is a program where the state will subsidize part of the cost of the test - so you can get tests for $6 (about half the normal cost). That price INCLUDES the test kit AND the testing/results. [It's a GOOD deal!!!]

We did two tests in our home - one on the main floor and one in the basement. It's a little charcoal tray and you set it out for 48 hours. After the time was up, we sent it in and waited for results.

I was shocked when we got the email with our results. The EPA suggests that anything over 4 pCi/L should be retested, and if still high, the homeowner should seek out mitigation options.

Our numbers...? 27 on the main floor, and 40 in the basement - that's 6 and 10 TIMES the acceptable limit! UGH!!! Needless to say, it was hard to breath for a day or two, just thinking about what we were drawing into our lungs.

We are on our second round of tests now to confirm, but with numbers that high it is a foregone conclusion that we will have to have a mitigation system installed. We've already contacted a company and discussed options and have an estimate. The good news is that mitigation systems are very effective and fairly easy to install - most systems run usually in the $1000-$1500 dollar range. Bye bye tax return, but at least it will give us some peace of mind.

The moral of my story is: I encourage EVERYONE to take a few moments and have your home tested for radon, especially those here in Utah where our risk is higher than the national average.

For more information on radon, check out the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's Indoor Radon Program web page or read through some of the great info available at the EPA's radon awareness site. They have a wealth of information there, including handouts, guides, maps, and even videos (some from a Dr. Oz show from February 2011 discussing the dangers of radon in your home). The site will also give info on the many options for radon testing, specific state programs you can participate in, and a list of approved radon mitigation companies should you find yourself in need of one.

And for those in Utah: Order short-term radon test kits online for discount

Additional links:

EPA - Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction
Utah Radon Risk Map
National Radon Risk Map


Wendy said...

Thanks for your story. We tested after a neighbor (three houses away) tested in the high 20s. Our basement was at a 4. We need to test again now that our kids are sleeping down there.

Candi said...

The radon mitigation guy we had out told us that the testing goes like that - one house will be really high, and the neighbors on both sides can both test at normal levels. He said it is really spotty like that - has a lot to do with the specific home, the soil underneath, age of home, and lots of different factors. Guess we just got "lucky" to draw the high numbers with this house... ;)

He also told us that the levels will vary between summer and winter - lower in the summer and higher in the winter. So if you tested before in the summer, you might want to check again now that it's winter just to make sure the levels haven't increased.

Keeping my fingers crossed that your numbers will stay low! :)