submitted by Canadian Cancer Society
What it is?
Radon is a naturally occurring, colourless, odourless cancer-causing gas that can build up in your home. It is caused by the natural decay of uranium in rocks and soil.
Why is it an issue?
Exposure to radon gas increases your risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Exposure to high concentrations of radon at any age is harmful. Children exposed to radon can have an increased risk of developing lung cancer later in life. Risk increases with the level of radon concentration and the length of exposure. If a person or child is exposed to elevated radon levels in their daily environment (such as home, workplace, or care center), they could be at risk for developing lung cancer later in life. Preventing exposure to radon will help reduce this lifetime risk, which is why the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recommends taking swift action to reduce high radon levels.
Exposure to cigarette smoke and radon significantly increases the risk for developing lung cancer.
Health Canada estimates that 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada are caused by radon and that an estimated 500,000 Canadians are living in homes that exceed the federal guidelines for radon gas exposure. The East Kootenay is estimated to have between 19 to 29.3 per cent of homes with radon levels about the guideline of 200 Bq/m3 (Bq or becquerel is a measurement of radioactive material).
There are no immediate symptoms related to radon exposure and no known health effects other than lung cancer. There are also no medical tests available to see if you have been exposed to radon.
What we are doing?
The CCS believes people have the right to know if they are being exposed to cancer causing substances in their homes, environment or workplaces. This allows Canadians to make informed decisions and take actions that could impact their health. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends measuring radon levels in the home to see how they relate to the recommended guidelines. There is no known safe level of radon exposure, and different health organizations have slightly different recommendations.
The following trusted and recognized health authorities recommend taking quick action to reduce radon levels if they exceed these amounts: Health Canada 200 Bq/m3; World Health Organization 100 Bq/m3; United States Environmental Protection Agency 70 Bq/m3 – 148 Bq/m3 (2-4pCi/L).
The CCS is currently working with partners at Interior Health, Northern Health and the BC Lung Association to educate British Columbians about the dangers of radon exposure.
What can you do?
Get your home tested. Testing or measuring indoor radon levels is the only way to see if you are at risk of exposure. You have two choices: A radon test kit includes a lab analysis of the results. Test kits can be found at Invermere Home Hardware for the special price of $29.99. We are fortunate to have in our valley, Nate Sereda who is a current member of the C-NRPP (Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program) and has taken, and passed, the Health Canada Radon measurement exam. Being a member of the C-NRPP requires him to adhere to a strict quality protocol which ensures accurate test results.
If you decide on a kit, the best one is the long term one, testing for at least three months. This is the perfect time of the year to do it. Once your test is complete, you will need to send it away and for a nominal fee, your information will be assessed. A small price to pay for peace of mind.
If your home does test positive for high levels of radon, there are several things you can do right away. Reducing the amount of radon in your home is easy. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced by more than 80 per cent for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner. There are certified radon mitigation contractors who can help you to fix your home or advise you of the best next steps.