Seven in 10 living in homes with high radon levels are ignoring dangerous radioactivity, survey shows

A Health Canada study that included a Cross-Canada Survey of Radon Concentration in Homes, tested 14,000 homes nationwide in 2009-11. It found that while radon levels vary significantly across the country, no areas are “radon-free” and 6.9 per cent of Canadians are living in homes with radon levels above the current Health Canada guideline of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

“All homes and buildings will have radon in them. The question is how much,” said Roshini Kassie of the New Brunswick Lung Association and Coordinator of the national Take Action on Radon network. “Long-term test kits as well as certified measurement and mitigation professionals are available in every province and territory.”

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is generated naturally from the breakdown of small amounts of uranium found everywhere in the soil and rock. All homes and buildings contain some radon; the question is how much and the only way to know is to test. It gets into buildings through cracks in the foundation, floor drains, or openings for pipes.

Breathing high concentrations of radon over a long period increases the risk of developing lung cancer. An estimated 16 per cent of lung cancer cases nationwide are attributed to radon exposure, making it the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the country. At least eight Canadians die every day from radon-induced lung cancer.

Four years later, only one-third had fixed the problem

In a 2016 Radon Mitigation Follow-up survey, participants whose homes tested above 200 Bq/m3 were asked whether they had taken any action to reduce their radon levels.

“Just under 30 per cent indicated they had taken some form of action to address the problem,” said Kelley Bush, Health Canada’s Head of Radon Education and Awareness. “The most common reasons given for not mitigating were the perceived cost and the belief that their radon levels were not particularly high.”

“Radon is a silent killer in Canadian homes,” said Mike Holmes Jr., home renovation expert, television personality, and prominent radon awareness campaigner. “What’s shocking is that so many people who know they are living with dangerous levels of radon do nothing to fix the problem. The good news is that if a radon test confirms your house is contaminated, fixing the problem is not only easy but also relatively inexpensive.”

Holmes estimates that fixing the problem can cost between $500 and $3,000.

Take Action on Radon network

Stakeholders have formed a national Take Action on Radon network from various sectors – NGOs, charities, health and public health organizations, radon professionals, government, builders, academics, retailers – and every province and territory will be encouraging Canadians to take action on radon. November each year is Radon Action Month with radon awareness advocates from various sectors urging Canadians to test for radon and reduce those levels where necessary. The best time to conduct the recommended long-term (three-month) test is late fall and winter when the house is closed up against the cold.

In addition, to help encourage more Canadians to reduce radon levels in their homes, the Canadian Environmental Law Association has written to all federal MPs seeking support for a radon mitigation tax credit. "A federal tax credit is the logical next step in Canada’s otherwise impressive national radon program. It will send a strong signal to Canadians to take this issue more seriously and will help make radon mitigation more affordable," said Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

To learn more about radon in Canada, to find a long-term test kit or a C-NRPP-certified radon professional, visit http://www.takeactiononradon.ca/