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Radon Man

Apr 08, 2016 09:24AM ● Published by Briana Kelley

By Briana Kelley | briana@mycityjournals.com

South Valley - Radon Man versus the silent killer. It may sound like a new box office hit or perhaps a Saturday morning cartoon. However, the reality of this silent killer is far from entertaining and ignorance could lead to death, according to Riverton City Councilmember Paul Wayman. 

Wayman has recently dedicated time and effort to radon awareness and education, a role that has led Mayor Bill Applegarth and others to call him “Radon Man.”

“I want to do something good. I think it’s an issue that people have been ignoring,” Wayman said. “Right now, so many people are unaware of the dangers of radon, and when they find out they ask why no one told them about this when they built or purchased their home. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer. It’s terrible when someone dies from lung cancer.”

Wayman hopes to make people aware of this issue by educating the public about radon and “getting everyone on board.” Radon is a radioactive, odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that occurs naturally as uranium decays in the soil. The gas enters buildings and homes from the soil through the lowest floor. Radon causes 21,000 deaths due to lung cancer annually, according to the EPA.

Riverton resident Nate McDonald is one individual who benefitted from radon education and awareness. McDonald first heard about radon from a state educational campaign. However, he said initially he did not connect the dots. He and his wife later tested their home after their neighbors’ results came back high. The test results and the re-test results for McDonald’s home also came back very high.

“I think when you do the research and you learn about the dangers of radon and the long-term effects of breathing radon, specifically with lung cancer, you realize this is an important issue. It was an important issue particularly for me because we have our kids in the basement. When we initially found out about testing for radon, my wife said, ‘We’ve got to get this done.’ It was always in the back of our minds to do it but we sat on it for a while. When we learned that it [the radon level] was so high, it was sickening to know that it was so high and our kids had been sleeping and living down there,” McDonald said. 

After further research, McDonald had a mitigation system installed by a certified mitigator. The system is designed to pull the gas from under the building and release it away from the structure using a pipe under the building slab that connects to a vent on the roof. Mitigation systems range in price but generally cost approximately $1,300, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Costs are significantly lower when it is installed before a house is built.

Wayman hopes that educating the public can make all people aware of radon dangers when they purchase a home, including the builder, the real estate agent and the buyer. 

“It would be nice to get everyone on board. Then, the people who construct the homes can build radon pumps into the home. The people who purchase homes can be aware of this danger from the beginning, and real estate agents can inform them of potential issues,” Wayman said.

Tests for radon gas in buildings and homes are available at Peterson’s Fresh Market and online at radon.utah.gov for $8, and include lab analysis. Tests are also available at other hardware stores with an added cost for lab analysis. 

The EPA recommends homes be remediated if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. A radon level of 4.0 pCi/L equals 200 chest X-rays per year or smoking eight cigarettes per day. One in three buildings in Salt Lake County have radon levels of 4.0 or higher, according to a study put out by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“We’re glad we did it. We only wish we would have done it a lot sooner than we did. We’re very glad that we’ve done it. Until you learn about it and read about it and get tested, you won’t know. It’s definitely an eye-opener,” McDonald said.

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