VERNON – It’s colourless, odourless and it can cause cancer. The risk associated with indoor radon gas has prompted the Vernon Native Housing Society to start testing some of their units for the substance. The society is speaking out about radon, hoping to encourage others to take the same proactive approach.
So far the society has put radon testing devices in 21 of their units. In the long run they plan to do radon testing on all of their properties.
“Our society is very aware of wanting to offer the best housing possible,” says the society’s general manager, Karen Gerein. “Making sure we mitigate any possible radon gas in our units is high on our list of priorities right now.”
You can’t see or smell the naturally occurring gas so its presence isn’t obvious.
“It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil,” explains Britt Swoveland with the BC Lung Association. “It can infiltrate into any single little crack or opening in [a building’s] foundation. Once it gets inside a building it can linger and it is exposure over many, many years that can then lead to lung cancer in the building’s occupants.”
Swoveland says radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and her organization is trying to raise public awareness about the potential dangers of radon.
“It is estimated that about one in five homes in the Okanagan region have levels above the Health Canada guidelines. We would really like to see the public engage in this issue,” she says.
Meanwhile, if the housing society finds elevated levels of radon, it will do the necessary mitigation work. Their maintenance person is also being trained in radon testing and mitigation. Gerein is hoping to encourage others to test their own buildings.
“It is just something that every homeowner should be aware of, every society or agency that is involved with providing housing should be aware of,” she says.
The Lung Association has more information about radon and buying testing kits on their website.