One in three Utah homes have elevated levels of radon, leading to increased lung cancer risks for Utah’s residents, according to a member of the Utah Radon Coalition at a city council meeting on Mar. 3.
Councilman Paul Wayman learned of the high radiation levels in Utah at a hazard conference in February and decided he wanted to do something.
“When you see all the hazards in the city and in the county, radon is right up there,” Wayman said. “It’s a major one. One third of all houses in Utah have dangerous levels. That means really we should do something about it.”
Wayman invited Sandy resident Jan Poulsen to speak on behalf of the Utah Radon Coalition at the Mar. 16 city council meeting about her experiences with radon. Poulsen developed lung cancer due to high radon levels in her home after redoing her basement in 2002. After a seven-year battle with cancer, Poulsen is currently cancer free.
“While I am healthy, I am committed to raising awareness of lung cancer and radon,” she said. One of her major goals is ensuring Utah’s “homes, schools, and public buildings can be radon free.”
According to Poulsen, lung cancer kills more people than breast, color, pancreatic, and prostate cancer combined. 160,000 people die annually from lung cancer, with 20,000 of those dying from radon-induced lung cancer. And yet only 6 percent of federal dollars spent on cancer research are spent on lung cancer research.
“There is no screening, and radon doesn’t usually have symptoms. So by the time of diagnosis, it has already been spread,” Poulsen said.
“Radon detection and radon mitigation is preventative for lung cancer, where other cancers really don’t have prevention. So this is something by being aware of radon and doing what you need to do making sure that your house doesn’t have radon, you can prevent yourself from getting it and your family.”
“I was lucky to have very good insurance, but as you can imagine, the cost of testing and mitigating our home—approximately $1500—pales in comparison to the expenses incurred in cancer treatment—well over $1,000,000 and still climbing,” Poulsen said.
Poulsen encouraged Riverton residents to have their homes tested sooner rather than later. Radon kits are available for $8 through the state’s radon website—cheaper than at local hardware stores. If mitigation is necessary, there is assistance available for families making less than $59,000.
After the presentation, Riverton City teamed with Riverton Hospital to provide radon-testing kits to all families going home with new babies.
“All they have to do is send to the state a flyer that they’re getting them with new babies that come home,” said Councilman Paul Wayman. “That’s been an issue of course, being exposed to radon in homes—especially new babies and large families.”
In addition to providing radon coupons in the newborn kits, the city will be doing a community health seminar with Riverton Hospital later this year to provide radon information and education for the city and its surrounding areas. l