Murray Girl Scout address city council on radon gas dangersMay 30, 2022 04:41PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
One in three Murray homes could have elevated levels of radon gas, the No. 1 cause of lung cancer death for non-smokers. Local Girl Scout Tanya Vu was invited to address the March 1 Murray City Council meeting to report on her findings regarding research she has done for her Gold Award project.
“This really was brought up to my attention in my (West High School) environmental science class last year,” Vu said. “We studied independent labs, and I really looked into radon because it’s a problem that’s really affecting all of Utah and especially as more people are moving into this state.”
Radon gas is a naturally occurring, colorless, and odorless radioactive gas that can cause cancer. Radon can pass from the soil to the air and enters homes, schools, and workplaces. One in 15 houses in the US has an elevated radon level (EPA, 2018), while one in three Utah homes does (Utah Dept. of Health, 2021). However, most Utah homeowners are not even aware of this potential hazard.
This past year in Vu’s AP Environmental Science class, she conducted an independent research project to study the sociodemographic and economic correlates of radon awareness in Salt Lake County. She surveyed 170 residents to see what has led to the lack of radon awareness and what government can do to raise awareness.
“My research resulted in several findings,” Vu said. “One key finding is that if respondents have not measured the radon gas level in their home, they are much less aware of the negative health effect of radon gas exposure. The level of awareness is directly correlated with the mitigation efforts taken by the respondents. That is why it is vital to increase the awareness of radon gas and its negative health impacts. Therefore, my goal now is to bring awareness to Murray City of the hazards of radon gas, testing techniques, and mitigation procedures.”
Speaking to the council, she invited them to create radon awareness legislation. In addition, she plans to set up informational booths around the city and create a curriculum to teach elementary school students.
According to Vu, “I really want to bring up a couple of potential solutions the city could implement to these problems. Firstly, there could be a city radon awareness day where people can potentially pick up test kits and get more information. A second idea is just promoting more legislation to provide more readily accessible radon testing kits. The State of Utah has much more affordable ones…just spreading information about that and just utilizing the resources the State of Utah has provided.
“We could potentially find the library to purchase a few radon detectors that are reusable and have people place these in their homes for a couple of weeks just to get a better sense of their radon levels.”
Presenting alongside Vu was Utah Radon Coordinator Eleanor Divver. Divver said radon gas is released in the air when uranium breaks down. While eastern Utah has significantly more uranium than the Wasatch Front, Radon gas can still be found naturally in our soil and rock deposits. Test kits cost as low as $10.
“I really think these potential hazardous effects of radon should be presented through schools, and with this, we can better educate the public about these problems. I’m hoping to create a short program and maybe go around to elementary schools and to teach their fifth and sixth graders or other students about these issues,” Vu said.
Those interested in obtaining a free radon kit from the State of Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality, can receive one by participating in Vu’s survey at: bit.ly/RadonSurvey. It includes questions to gauge radon awareness.