Health Canada reminding residents to test homes for radon levels

Photo courtesy government of Canada.

Health Canada is reminding residents about the importance of testing their homes for radon.

Radon is a lung cancer risk. It’s the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second overall behind tobacco. It contributes to the deaths of almost 100 Saskatchewan residents each year.

“There is still time to test and we’d like to continue that message,” said regional radiation specialist Sandy Hutchison.

“It can be in any home. You won’t know until you test.”

Health Canada estimates that 16 per cent of Saskatchewan homes could have excessive levels of radon. A survey conducted ten years ago indicated that about five per cent of Prince Albert homes had higher radon levels than recommended, with that percentage rising to 7.5 in the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Region.

“Radon is a breakdown product of uranium, so it’s in the soil,” Hutchison said.

“It’s a soil gas, which makes it more mobile. It’s easy to be drawn into homes, especially all winter long while the furnace is on and that hot air is going to rise and escape out of the top of the house. It gets replaced with soil gas.”

Hutchison said that testing for radon is straightforward. A passive device — about the size of an old film canister — is placed in an area that won’t be disturbed for three months. That test kit is then sent back to the laboratory, which tests to see if radon levels exceed Health Canada’s guidelines.

If your home is above the threshold, the best solution, Hutchison said, is a process called depressurization.

If you have a concrete floor, it consists of a four-inch hole drilled through the floor and a pipe and fan used to draw in soil gas and exhaust it outside to bypass the home.

“All you’re doing is creating a preferred pathway for it to get from underneath the home to the atmosphere where it doesn’t accumulate to the higher level inside your home.”

Most test kits are sold online, Hutchison said. Takeactiononradon.ca is the ultimate resource for retailers selling approved test kits in Canada.

Kits are sold in Saskatchewan online through the Saskatchewan Lung Association.

If you do test high, Hutchison recognizes a group of professionals who have training in reducing radon levels.

That list is located at c-nrpp.ca. None exist in Prince Albert, but there are radon mitigation professionals in Saskatoon, Meadow Lake, North Battleford and surrounding areas.