Wednesday, 17 May 2017 10:14

It’s time to take radon seriously

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No one likes “big brother” looking out for our every whim and need, but one area where some additional government regulation could be good is around radon.


In the news off and on for a number of years, the most recent story done by the Calgary Herald at the end of March, reported that a University of Calgary study shows radon gas likely exists in above acceptable levels in one of every eight homes in that  city.
For those people who have no idea what radon is — don’t worry there are a lot of you — it is a radioactive gas produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It is odourless, has no taste and can seep into a home very easily undetected.
So what’s the big deal about radon? This “silent killer” if present, increases the risk of developing lung cancer — exponentially if it exists at higher rates over a longer period of time. Radon in fact is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
It may also surprise many to know that it can be more prevalent in newer homes — those built in the last 25 years — and on the prairies. Even if individuals have a neighbour who has tested for radon and found it only in small amounts, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in larger amounts in that person’s home home right next door.
What is likely frustrating for scientists, physicians and others involved with raising awareness about radon, is it is easy to test for it and for problems to be resolved.
People can purchase a do-it-yourself long-term radon test kit from many hardware stores. They range in price from $30 to $60. They are best left out for at least three months, up to a year. The test is placed in a room in your basement. Testing should be done through September to April when windows in a home are mainly kept closed. Then for a fee of as little as $15, the test is sent away to a laboratory.
Results are emailed within a matter of weeks.
Canadian officials have set the guideline for testing at 200 becquerels per cubic metre (200 Bq/m3), but World Health Organization sets the limit at 100 Bq/m3.
The Calgary Herald story reported WHO officials state the risk of lung cancer increases by 16 per cent per 100 Bq/m3 increase in radon concentration.
When high concentrations of radon are found, remediation work can take place to reduce levels. The cost ranges anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500.
For piece of mind — which is priceless — the costs and inconvenience of testing and dealing with radon in your home is worth it.
It could also be worth the reduction of the strain on the health-care system later on, if government considered regulations around radon testing and remediation.
Just that was proposed a decade ago in 2007, when Health Canada considered making testing mandatory during a real estate transaction. The real estate industry lobbied against such a change, as it would force sellers to prove their homes were radon free, or the risk was minimal from the radioactive gas, before selling to a new buyer.
Real estate transactions currently require real property reports, so what would be one more level of assurance to buyers that they are acquiring a safe and healthy property, and sellers, who would have piece of mind knowing they themselves weren’t exposed to this dangerous gas.
Maybe it’s time to consider adopting such requirements for the benefits of our health, public awareness and reducing at least one of the growing contributors and risk factors to developing cancer.
There is good information to be found about radon on the Canadian government’s website. People can also learn more and participate in an ongoing radon study by visiting DNAscience.ca/radon.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Read 1652 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 11:48
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor