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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Silent Killer in Utah Homes

Oct 07, 2015 02:06PM ● By Bryan Scott

Eleanor Divvey with the Indoor Radon Program

By Cassandra Goff

On August 25, Jan Poulsen, Michael Sylar and Eleanor Divvey gave a presentation at a Cottonwood Heights public meeting about dangers of radon in Utah homes.

Radon is one of the biggest causes of lung cancer in Utah. It is easy to believe that smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer but “each year approximately 160,000 Americans die from lung cancer, and about 22,000 of those die from radon-induced lung cancer,” Poulsen said. For this location, that means approximately “Seventy-five Utahns are diagnosed every year,” Divvey explained, and about 80 percent of those diagnosed die. 

Radon is undetectable by smell in a Utah home. Radon is easily trapped within airtight homes. Radon comes from granite rock, which is found in Utah soil. The “decomposition of uranium-bearing granite in our soil” is the cause for this deadly gas, Poulsen explained. 

“Radon-induced lung cancer is quite high and unrecognizable until it is too late,” explained Poulsen. Radon-induced lung cancer is deadly because “there are no routine screening for lung cancer, and many times there are no symptoms. So by the time it is detected, it is at stage 3 or 4 and has already spread,” Poulsen said. She also mentions that “lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers and kills more people annually then the next four cancers combined.” The next four cancers are breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate.

In Utah, “One in three homes test high for radon gas,” Divvey said. Unfortunately, this test is not required in any code when building. She suggests for every Utah resident to test for radon every “two years or after a remodel.” 

Poulsen, Sylar and Divvey work with the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control’s (DWMRC) Indoor Radon Program. Through their website,, residents can order radon test kits for approximately $7. They encourage all Utah residents to test, especially if the home has never been tested, the last test was over two years ago or after a remodeling the home.