Invisible to the eye and without any smell or taste, radon gas may leak unknowingly into your house, causing cancer.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has declared January to be National Radon Action Month, joining a national initiative to encourage testing for the deadly invisible gas.
“Testing for radon is simple and inexpensive,” said Taylor Palmer, radon coordinator for the Tooele County Health Department.
The health department sells radon test kits for $5. The $5 cost includes the test kit and processing, according to Palmer.
To use the test kit, which is about the size of the palm of a hand, it needs to opened and set in a room for 48 to 96 hours. The kit is then dropped into the provided envelope and mailed in to be processed.
Radon is a radioactive gas produced by the natural decay of uranium found in soil, rocks and water. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. The gas may leak into an accumulate in homes through openings like cracks in the foundation, regardless of a home’s age and whether or not the home has a basement.
Palmer estimates that one out of every three homes in Tooele County has radon levels higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air.
In some neighborhoods one house may have a radon level above the action level while a home across the street may be lower, according to Palmer.
“The only way to know is by testing,” he said.
Winter is the perfect time to test your home for radon because doors and windows are closed. Health officials point out that long-term radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers. More Americans die from lung cancer than any other cancer. Every year 21,000 lung cancer deaths are because of radon exposure, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
If a home has a high level of radon a certified radon mitigation specialist should be hired to get rid of the radon. The DEQ estimates that it costs about $1,500 to get rid of elevated levels of radon in a home.
The DEQ will give away 100 free radon test kits during January. Visit radon.utah.gov to request a free test kit. A list of certified radon mitigator professionals, and more information about Radon Action Month activities, can also be found at radon.utah.gov.
Test kits for radon can be purchased at the Tooele County Health Department in the Environmental Health Office at 151 N. Main in Tooele City. The health department is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.