Though Moab is rarely called the uranium capital of the world anymore, the geological conditions that earned it the title still impact the city.
In a presentation to the Moab City Council on June 26, the Utah Geological Survey outlined various geologic hazards that could potentially impact residents and development projects. Each of the 13 hazards they identified was mapped, showing what areas in the Moab region have the potential to be impacted. One map in particular caught the council’s attention: indoor radon potential.
The map for radon showed the entire Moab valley and river corridor in red, meaning it has high potential for rocks that would give off radon. Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It occurs naturally as uranium deposits decay. It can lead to problems when it becomes trapped in residential spaces and is continually breathed in by residents. Ben Erickson, one of the map authors, said “over time you can develop chronic health problems and potentially cancer… this is a pretty serious issue.” According to the EPA, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, the first for non-smokers.
Mayor Emily Niehaus asked about the policy implications of such findings. Erickson emphasized the map only showed potential radon levels and was not an actual measurement of the gas. “This is the geology based off what radon comes from,” he said. Still, it’s something that should be accounted for when constructing new buildings. “When you build a home you need to be aware of how sealed the home is,” said Erickson. The UGS also recommended checking with the state health department to find out how to test for radon and how to mitigate it.