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Radon Program: Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is radon a problem in Utah?

Excessive radon levels have been found in all of the 50 states. In Utah, 30% of the homes in Utah have radon levels in excess of the EPA recommended action level of 4 picoCuries of radon per liter of air (pCi/L).

How can radon damage my health?

Thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths annually in the United States are attributable to indoor residential exposure to radon. Either smoking or radon exposure can independently increase the risk of lung cancer. However, exposure to both greatly enhances that risk. (At exposures to 4 pCi of radon per liter of air, the lifetime lung cancer risk attributable to radon rises from 2 cases per thousand in non-smokers to 29 cases per thousand in smokers).

How much reliance can I put on these risk factors?

The risk factors were developed from epidemiological studies of underground miners exposed to radon. Because the studies collected data from human adult males rather than from animal subjects, they have a higher confidence level than is applied to toxicological studies. The Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and the World Health Organization have all identified indoor radon pollution as a national health problem.

How does radon get into my home?

Radon moves from uranium-bearing granite deposits in the soil to the atmosphere because there is a lower concentration of radon in the atmosphere than in the soil. Your home is sited in its path and because the house is usually warmer than the surrounding soil, the air pressure is less and soil gases including radon move into the home. The most common routes are: spaces between basement walls, cracks in foundations, or wall openings around sump pumps and drains, construction joints, crawl spaces showers, and well water with high radon concentrations.

My house is new (old) so it shouldn't have a problem, right?

The age of a home is not a factor when it comes to whether excessive levels of radon are present in the dwelling.

My neighbor tested and did not find a radon problem so my home should be OK, right?

Unfortunately, that is a false assumption. Usually neither the location of the radon source or its strength (radioactivity) is known. In addition, the air spaces found in different soil types allow movement at different rates and we seldom know what those types are 20 to 30 feet below the surface where they act as channels or dams. Predicting a radon level in one home on the basis of a tested level in a home 75 to 200 or so feet away becomes radon guessing. The location of ancient stream beds (channel) and of granite out cropping (the source) also compound prediction reliability.

How do I know if my home has a radon problem?

The only way of knowing is to test for radon. There are many kinds of low cost "do-it-yourself" radon test kits which may be ordered online or purchased from hardware stores and other retail outlets. Be sure the test is marked "Meets EPA Requirements." To order a test kit online or to hire an EPA-qualified radon tester, go to: www.radon.utah.gov you may also contact the Division of Radiation Control at 801-536-4250 or 1-800-458-0145.

Does the State do radon testing?

No, the State does not compete with private industry; we provide information and advice only.

I am renting a house (apartment) and am concerned about radon. Does my landlord have to test for radon if I ask him?

No, you will have to do it yourself unless you can persuade him/her to test.

I tested my rental home (apartment) and the radon reading was high, is my landlord required to "fix" this problem?

No, there is no legal requirement for him/her to mitigate the radon level.

Where can we get a radon test kit?

You may purchase a short-term radon test kit on the Division's web site. Test kits may also be purchased from some home improvement centers, radon laboratories, or from the Utah Safety Council. (Be sure the kit is marked "Meets EPA Requirements").

How much do the radon test kits cost?

The State of Utah has contracted with Alpha Energy in Texas to provide test kits to all Utahans for $6.00 per kit. It's the real deal! This price includes the laboratory analysis which is a $30 to $40 savings. Long term kits are available for $24.95

Are the 'Do-It-Yourself' test kits as accurate as those used by professionals hired to do the testing for me?

Yes, if you use a kit that meets EPA requirements, follow the instructions on the label exactly, and return it to the lab promptly.

What is the difference between long and short term tests?

Short-term tests take 60 hours to complete. The house is closed for 12 hours, then the test instrument is activated or opened and left in place for 48 hours or more. Charcoal canisters are the device of choice although electronic instruments may be used. Long-term tests take more than 91 days to complete and are conducted with the house in a normal living mode. Alpha track detectors or electronic detection instruments are used. Long-term test results give a more representative picture of the true radon levels in the home over time as fluctuations due to changes in ambient temperature and barometric pressure are detected and factored into the final valuation.

Which area is best for testing radon levels?

Are you wanting to test your home for a real estate transaction or are you are testing for your own purposes? The recommendations are different for the two cases. If you are testing to determine if your home has radon levels warranting mitigation, the EPA recommends testing in the lowest living area of your home. For a real estate transaction, EPA recommends testing in the lowest area which could be modified to become a living area.

I'm closing on a house and need a radon measurement test result quickly. How do I accomplish this?

A list of Utah certified providers may be obtained here: "Certified Mitigators,". A certified professional will use either a continuous monitor which will permit them to give you test results at the end of the test period or some other short term measurement device which can be read at a laboratory and the value reported in short order.

My family has been ill since we moved into this house and we think radon is the cause, what can we do?

The only proven health effect caused by breathing radon is the development of lung cancer. You may have radon problems and the only way you can know this is to test the air in your home. However, radon is not known to cause acute symptoms.

I have a high radon reading in my home. How do I get it fixed?

The method of choice is usually sub-slab or, if you have a crawl space, sub-membrane depressurization. Contact an EPA Radon Proficiency Certified Contractor to bid on the job. A professional will advise you on the best method for your home.

How much does it cost to have a home remediated (fixed)?

The average cost of a sub-slab system in Utah is generally around $1200 unless aggregate or difficult foundation design problems are encountered.

Can you recommend a contractor?S

A list of Utah certified professionals may be found on the Radon Educated Home Builders and Inspectors page. ” We recommend you obtain several estimates before choosing a contractor. You may also want to read EPA's brochure, Consumer Guide.

Is sub-slab depressurization (the most effective technological solution) something I can do myself?

Perhaps, if you have good handy-man skills, including electrical wiring skills. If you are unsure, it would be advisable to get an evaluation from one of the EPA-listed contractors before you make up your mind. Also, check your library for Doug Kladder's reference book "PROTECTING YOUR HOME FROM RADON: A Step-by-Step Manual for Radon Reduction." If you decide to tackle the job, call back to get a copy of the EPA instruction manual which contains all the specifications for fans, master panels, etc. We will enclose the phone numbers and addresses of several supply houses that specialize in mitigation hardware.

Could I seal and caulk only, and hope it would be enough to correct the problem?

While caulking and sealing is done as part of the mitigation process,the purpose is not to keep radon out but to hold conditioned air in the dwelling. Because it is impossible to seal all cracks and the task is not only time-consuming but expensive, it is not recommended as a stand alone procedure. However, if you have an unfinished basement, and your radon levels are below EPA's action level of 4 pCi/L, sealing entry routes may suffice as a radon reduction option.

Should I have my water tested for radon?

If you have tested the air in your home and found a radon problem and your water comes from a private well you should test the water. (Call a lab certified to measure radiation in water.)

Is radon a problem in drinking water supplies?

Generally, radon is not a problem with public drinking water systems because during the water treatment process aeration releases dissolved radon to the atmosphere. However, if the water supply is from a private well, radon levels could be unacceptably high. The recommendation is to test the well water if the air radon concentrations in the occupied dwelling are over 4pCi/L.

I am performing an Environmental Site Assessment and need to know the radon level/risk for the property at (identification). Do you have information that can help me?

Most of Utah is classed as EPA Zone 2, an area of high radon potential(probable indoor radon average between 2 and 4 pCi/L). The EPA has published a map characterizing all Utah counties. A map may be obtained off the Division of Radiation Control website.

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