Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas found in the ground throughout the world. Most homes that are in contact with the ground will contain some amount of radon gas. Radon becomes more of a concern when it reaches high levels. Radon levels vary across the country.
According to Health Canada, about seven per cent of Canadian homes have radon levels that may be putting residents at risk. Here in the B.C. Interior, we have some “hot spot” areas with high radon levels in approximately 40 per cent of homes.
Radon, in combination with tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, can increase the risk substantially. Health Canada estimates that one in three smokers exposed to high radon levels will develop lung cancer.
Radon gas is colourless, odourless and tasteless, so the only way to know if the radon levels in your home are high is to conduct testing. The best time to test your home for radon gas is now through April. During the cooler months, windows and doors are often closed and rising warm air in a home draws more radon from the ground.
Testing a home is easy and inexpensive. It involves placing a small puck-like kit within the lowest area of the home that could be occupied for more than four hours per day. The kit should remain there for a minimum of three months and then mailed to a laboratory for results.
The bottom line is that everyone should test their homes for radon to see if this gas (dubbed as the “silent killer”) is lurking. If elevated radon levels are found, basic measures can be taken to address the problem. Further information can be found on the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/environ/radon-eng.php.
Get a test kit from the BC Lung Association at 1-800-665-5864.
– Greg Baytalan is a specialist environmental health officer with Interior Health.