In conjunction with a nationwide campaign, the American Lung Association of Utah is emphasizing the hazards of radon gas and offering a device to aid its detection.

Gay Saunders, Lung Association executive director, said radon is a potentially deadly gas and Utahns need to know if it is affecting their lives.The Lung Association is offering alpha track detectors, manufactured by Glenwood Laboratories, for $24.95. The price includes a complete analysis by the laboratory and a report of the results to residents.

Sanders said the results are kept completely confidential; Glenwood documents the findings by zip code only, for research purposes.

Radon gas is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of radium, a decay product of uranium. The gas can be found in soil surrounding homes, particularly soil containing uranium, shale, phosphate, granite or pitchblende. From the soil, the gas can seep into homes through cracks in floor and wall foundations, drains, joints or any other openings. Radon can also be in building materials or transported into a building through water. It's invisible and has no odor, so special devices are necessary to detect it.

Saunders said it is possible many Salt Lake homes were built on such soil or have developed radon problems, and the health effects of radon gas are deadly. Radon naturally breaks down and forms "radon daughters," which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 5 million homes contain radon gas, and it attributes 15,000 lung cancer deaths annually to the substance - second only to cigarette smoking-related deaths.

Solutions to radon gas contamination include sealing cracks in homes and buildings and properly ventilating building foundation soil. A complete list of corrective measures will be sent with test results from Glen-wood Laboratories.

For more information, contact the American Lung Association of Utah at 484-4456, or send a self-addressed stamped envelope, along with a check for $24.95, to the association at 1930 S. 11th East, Salt Lake City UT 84106.