November 4, 2015 10:22 pm
Updated: November 5, 2015 2:20 pm

Calgary homeowners urged to test for cancer causing gas

WATCH ABOVE: The Lung Association of Alberta is urging homeowners to have their homes tested for high levels of radon gas. It’s believed radon gas is responsible for at least 3-thousand cancer deaths a year. Heather Yourex-West reports.


CALGARY — When Jon Fennell built his dream home outside of Cochrane a few years ago, he didn’t expect to renovate so soon. That changed after he learned dangerous amounts of radon gas has been leaking into his house.

“It’s given us comfort knowing that we’re safe in our home now,” Fennell said.

University of Calgary researchers have tested over 250 homes across the Calgary area. They found 19 per cent had levels of radon higher than what Health Canada considers safe.

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“(Radon gas) is exceptionally carcinogenic when inhaled,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi of the U of C’s Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute. “The average Canadian needs to worry about exposure, especially in the prairies where the geology of the land underneath out houses is very high in uranium.”

Radon gas is formed when uranium in soil, rock or water breaks down. When the gas escapes from the ground to the air outside, it’s not a problem but when radon seeps into a closed-in space, like a house, it can be harmful.

Radon gas can accumulate in the home and at high levels, exposure can increase a person’s lifetime lung cancer risk by as much as 30 per cent.

“We want more people to understand that exposure to radon is very dangerous for them,” said Lung Association President and CEO Leigh Allard.

“We want people to test their homes and buildings of where they live and where they work.”

A test costs about $45 and takes 90 days to complete. Health Canada recommends testing during the winter months when windows and doors typically remain closed. The maximum acceptable Canadian Radon Guideline is 200 becquerels/cubic metre. Homes that are found to have higher levels of radon can be mitigated at a cost of between $2,000 to $3,000.

“What you’re trying to do is pressurize your home,” radon mitigation specialist Renato MacQueen explained “The reason radon is coming in is because you have a negative pressure in your home. When we install a system underneath your concrete, it pressurizes the home and stops all soil gasses from entering.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Health Canada estimates radon gas is to blame for more than 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

University of Calgary researchers are asking Albertans to test their homes for radon and contribute their results to their study. For more information about radon gas exposure and testing visit


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