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Raising awareness about radon

You may be breathing in a deadly gas and not even know it.

Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer in the United States, but most people don’t even know they are being exposed. The radioactive gas is colorless and odorless, and it forms when uranium, or radium, breaks down in rocks, soil, and groundwater. It seeps into buildings through cracks, holes, and foundations and, once inside, pools and increases the exposure, and cancer risk, of those who breathe it in. It’s found in houses, businesses and even schools. It is especially common for buildings in Utah to have elevated radon levels.

“Because of uranium deposits, radon is higher here than in other states,” said Utah Radon Lab member Andrew Clothier. “The national average for elevated radon in homes is one in 15 homes, but here in Utah it’s one in three.”

It is recommended that buildings be checked for elevated radon levels every two to five years, but many people don’t know that or are not aware of how to get a test. That’s why, for January, the Utah Radon Lab is making a major push to raise awareness about the dangers of radon and get testing kits into the hands of as many people as possible.

Radon awareness events

Radon testing drive
Jan. 16-19
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Marriott Library and the Student Union
Stop by one of our tables to pick up a radon test, learn more about the risks of radon, and grab some snacks and swag.

Taking Action on Radon speaker event
Jan. 17
2 p.m.
Hinckley Institute
Come learn from a panel of experts on several topics related to radon.

  • Tanya Yu, Utah Radon Lab: The basics of radon in your home
  • Heidi Nofman Onda, White Ribbon Project: Health impacts of radon
  • Eleanor Divver, Utah Radon Coordinator: Making your home safe

Radon awareness at the Utah Men’s Basketball Game
Jan. 18
7 p.m.
Huntsman Center
Coupons for free or reduced-cost radon tests and free information on how to make your home safe and cool swag will be available as part of the Utah Radon Lab’s “Radon Action” Week activities.

“We also will be partnering with the Utah Wellness Bus to hand out flyers all month about radon awareness in the community,” said Tabitha Benney, associate professor of political science and director of the lab. “We will also have free coupons for radon testing in those communities thanks to a partnership with the state.”

Of course, the risk of radon won’t end when February arrives, and the Utah Radon Lab has big plans for the future. “Our goal is to test public schools in Utah to see if they have any elevated radon,” said lab member Gavin Ballard. “Not only to protect those in those buildings but as an indicator of potentially elevated levels of radon in houses in the community.”

The efforts of the Utah Radon Lab for radon awareness on campus are being made possible by grants from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (CSBS). “These grants will allow us to hand out radon tests for free or at a reduced cost and also provide food and information to the campus and local community,” said lab member Kaitlyn Ricks. “Without it, we really wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”

Radon can be deadly, but it is also easy to get rid of if you find elevated levels. It can be as simple as providing better ventilation in a building. The important thing is to be aware of the risk.

“We are really hoping to raise awareness,” said Benney. “We find it usually takes a couple of instances of people hearing about radon before they take action. With several events spread across campus, we are hoping to increase the likelihood of people picking up a test and learning if they are at an elevated risk.”