Radon in Utah homes can lead to lung cancer diagnosis

The gas is the second leading cause of the disease nationwide

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

Depending on the construction of a home, mitigation systems cost roughly $1,500. Jewell has one in his own home and said it is "well worth the peace of mind to know you're not breathing radioactive radon."

RadoVent also provides electronic radon testing, but doesn't usually test for the homes it ends up servicing, to avoid an apparent conflict of interest, Jewell said. He said the company installs about 200 systems per year and about 60 percent of them are in the Sandy area.

"I don't know what my cancer cost this year, but I would be surprised if it wasn't close to a million after you get through with everything — well, $1,375 is nothing compared to that and all the pain and all you have to go through and the concern of having cancer and the aftermath of it," McQuinn said.

"I still have a lung and a half that could be affected, but I was mostly concerned about my wife and family. I don't want anybody to get lung cancer."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that mitigation systems be installed on any home with radon levels greater than 4 picocuries per liter, which is the standard measurement of the intensity of radiation.

Local DEQ offices have partnered with an out-of-state laboratory to offer tests to any Utahn for just $6. They are available to be ordered via a web link, at www.radon.utah.gov.

Tests on homes throughout Utah have returned results of either little or no evidence of radon gas, or as high as 375 picocuries per liter in an area of Park City, or 358 in Orem near where Geneva Steel used to be located, according to state DEQ data. Relatively high levels have also been located in parts of Beaver and Carbon counties where mine tailings exist, or in other places throughout the state where former landfills once stood.

But Keyser emphasized that just because one home might have high levels, doesn't mean a neighbor would as well, and vice versa.

She said radon levels tend to be higher during the winter months and they vary throughout the year. Testing should be done in the lowest living area of a home, which is typically a basement, and air should be collected for at least 48 hours. The EPA, she said, advises homeowners to execute two tests to validate the numbers.

McQuinn's wife and children have received chest X-rays that revealed no cancer in their lungs, and having also suffered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and completed a round of chemotherapy earlier this year, McQuinn said he's lucky to be alive.

"It doesn't get much worse than lung cancer," he said.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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