Health department working to improve bad air, including Radon gas

One of the Bear River Health Department’s stated missions is improving healthy lifestyles and protecting the environment. Richard Worley, Deputy Director of the BRHD’s Environmental Health Division, deals with issues including Cache Valley’s winter air pollution while Mark Stevens, Environmental Health Scientist, is an expert on Radon gas. Stevens said Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, yet there is no reliable way to test soil for radon before beginning home construction. “There needs to be a method of collecting the Radon gas. You can’t just go out on bare soil and test for it because the wind is going to blow it away and you will have dispersion of the Radon gas.” He estimates possibly more than half the homes in Cache Valley have high levels of Radon gas. “There is a very good value through the State Department of Environmental Quality where Utah residents can get a reliable test kit for just $6. We have a link to that state web site at brhd.org. “But with new construction it is actually cheaper to build Radon-resistant features into a new home. It is about half the cost of trying to correct the problem after the fact.” Regarding Cache Valley’s winter air pollution Worley said it is important to understand there are precautions residents can take to protect their health during red air alert days. “On those days we can reduce heavy or prolonged exertion outside and reduce the amount of time outside. It is also important to check available sources to be informed when the air quality is bad, including our web site at brhd.org.” He said in December 2009, Cache Valley, and part of Franklin County, Idaho, were designated as not meeting the Federal Health Standard. In January 2011, there were eight yellow and 10 red air days. “The Federal Clean Air Act lays out a process which gives us three years from that date to develop a state implementation plan to address our air quality problem, so that we can ultimately meet the health standard.” Worley said a strategy is being formulated as a work group of representatives from several local and state agencies is working to come up with solutions that will be the most technically sound, feasible, cost-effective and potentially supportable in the community. “These solutions will be part of the plan that will be put into action after it is approved by the Federal EPA. That will happen in 2013 and when it does we should see a reduction in the number of red air days and ultimately meet the standard which is 35 micrograms per cubic meter.”

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