How safe is your home?

Since you can’t see it or smell it, you probably don’t think about the possibility of radon in your home that often.

Heath Canada thinks you should, since it poses a great health risk that can easily be mitigated.

Lung cancer is the number one killer of both men and women in Canada and radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking – causing 16 per cent of all lung cancer cases in the country. Yet few people are aware of radon and the harm it does to their health.

Lung Cancer Canada recently released a survey highlighting this fact. When asked if they were aware that radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, only 1 per cent of respondents answered yes.

“I get calls from people who have lung cancer who’ve never smoked a day in their life and just found out that their home has high levels. And they’re scared not only for themselves, but for their other family members who have been living in that house,” Kelley Bush, head of radon education and awareness at Health Canada, told CTV.

Health Canada released a survey earlier this year which showed that 7 per cent of homes in Canada have radon levels that exceed 200 becquerels per cubic metre – the level at which homeowners should take action to protect their health.

While all homes have radon – it’s a byproduct of uranium – the level of radon found in your home depends on many different factors including the type of ventilation system in your home, the type of soil the house sits on, and the level of uranium in the soil.

Where you live in the country also seems to make a difference. The survey found that less than 7 per cent of Ontario homes had excessive radon problems, but in New Bruswick, as much as 20 per cent of all homes exceeded safe radon levels.


What can you do?

Commercial tests are available for sale through hardware stores for around $50, and Health Canada recommends setting up the kit for at least three months in your home. It is best to test in the fall or winter when doors and windows are typically closed. Once testing is completed, you’ll need to send it to a lab in the U.S where they will process it and send you the results.

While it can be a slow process, it’s better than not knowing and putting your health at risk indefinitely.

If your home is found to have excessive levels of radon present, the best course of action is to find a contractor who is certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program. Radon reduction will cost between $1,500 and $3,000 – less than the cost of replacing windows or a new roof – and more important for the long term health of your family.

For more information on radon, visit Health Canada.

Sources: Health Canada, Lung Cancer Canada, CTV

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