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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Something You Can’t See May Be Lurking In Your Home

Jan 09, 2015 10:32AM ● By Tammy Nakamura
Preliminary tests for radon completed by Holladay City residents using at-home test kits are showing high levels of radon in some homes. 

The city gave out 200 free testing kits in November.  

“We had heard that radon levels might be high near creek beds and we wanted to know if that was true and if there was a threat to residents living near the creeks that run through the city,” City Manager Randy Fitts said.

The kits were in high demand, according to Fitts. “All of the kits were gone within three days. We are thinking about getting more to distribute for free or for a small cost.” 

The city council initially allocated $500 for the kits and will consider budgeting that much every year. The small fee for kits in the future could help provide more kits every year.

Radon is a naturally-occurring chemical element that is radioactive, colorless, odorless and tasteless. It is considered a significant contaminant that affects indoor air quality and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smoking people.

“Homes in the greater Salt Lake area have an average radon level of 3.1,” Eric Kuzniar, Airchek, Inc. quality assurance officer, said. “A level of 4.0 or above is the level where the EPA recommends the homeowner should consider doing something to correct the problem.” 

One of the early Holladay results was 68 and several more were in double-digits, but most were in the range below 4.0, according to early numbers compiled by Airchek. But not enough numbers had been submitted yet to determine if there were problems in any particular areas of the city. 

Residents who have tests showing a high level of radon are advised to do a second test because radon levels can fluctuate naturally. High-level readings could be caused by such things as unusual weather. If the results of the second test are still high, residents should considering addressing the issue in their homes.

City Councilmember Jim Palmer is an advocate of testing. Several years ago, he had a test result that registered 68. He was shocked. 

“We really didn’t know what to do or think,” he said.

Palmer later learned that the dirt floor in the crawl space in the basement of his 100-year-old home was the cause of the radon. He mitigated its effects with plastic on the dirt, a vent pipe and a fan and brought the radon level down to one. 

“My father lived in the home for years and now has lung cancer. But he was a smoker too. Smoking and radon are the number one and number two causes of lung cancer,” Palmer said.

City officials hope people will use the data to decide whether to mitigate radon in their homes if their levels are high.