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Project Overview and Motivations

It’s numbers time. 

  • Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the United States. 
  • Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. 

Confused? We don’t blame you. Welcome to the Utah Radon Lab (URL)—a research team dedicated to resolving this discrepancy. 

  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms when uranium, or radium, breaks down in rocks, soil, and groundwater.  
  • Radon typically enters buildings through cracks, holes, and porous materials in the foundation of buildings.  
  • Once inside, radon is often trapped where it accumulates and results in elevated radon exposure in humans.  
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends testing buildings for radon every 2-5 years. Do you see where we might be going with this?  
  • 1 in 5 of our public schoolshave been shown to have elevated radon levels (Davis, et al., 2020). Despite this, most schools in Utah have never been tested for radon. Children in Utah spend approximately 1,092 hours and teachers and staff spend over 1,600 hours annually in these structures. 

This is where we come in! Our goal is to test schools in seven districts in Utah to identify their current radon levels and general building characteristics.  

Research Plan

We have a lot of things going on. Here’s our plan:  

Our research team is working in cooperation with the Utah Radon Coordinator to test public schools in Utah and to help develop a statewide testing protocol. We also aim to collaborate with the state to implement a full-scale application of the project to ensure that schools in the state are tested in accordance with EPA guidelines. We are working with the intention of answering the following: 

  1. Can Utah public schools be tested effectively to quantify their range of radon exposure?
  2. What building characteristics play a role in radon exposure in schools?
  3. How can research data contribute to meaningful policies and actions around radon testing in the state of Utah to protect children in school settings?

Right now, it’s all about data collection! We are going to: 

  • Engage with school administrators and facilities personnel 
  • Administer building surveys  

And… conduct radon testing!  

URL will also engage in research activities associated with the project including: 

  • Grant writing 
  • Research ethics
  • Data management and analysis 
  • Academic writing and publication 
  • Public policy formulation 

Following the initial round of testing, our team will conduct follow up testing of high radon sites in the state using advanced testing equipment. We will also work during this period to fill in missing testing data in the schools in our sample.  

We will apply for external funding to launch a statewide testing system and to provide mitigation procedures for schools in the state with elevated radon. We will also disseminate our findings to local stakeholders and communities as we prepare a series of journal articles. 

Any questions? Reach out to 

Last Updated: 5/22/24