REGINA – Homes in Saskatchewan are more prone to having higher than acceptable levels of radon than the national average and in Regina, the levels are even more of a concern.
“If people put their seatbelts on, put a life jacket on their kids when they go on a boat, or change the batteries in their smoke detector … why wouldn’t you test your house for radon,” said Kelley Bush, radon education and awareness with Health Canada.
November is Health Canada’s radon awareness month. The odourless and invisible gas comes from uranium in the soil and can seep in through basements.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada; however, Health Canada says one in three people are unaware of its potentially serious health implications.
“A lot of people put their heads in the sand about it and say ‘well, I don’t care’,” said Frank Kirkpatrick, with D-A-F Radon Solutions, a mitigation expert in Regina.
The difficulty with detection is there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to determine which homes have high levels of radon and which don’t.
“In some cases, if they’re the newer houses that are really well sealed you’ll find higher radon, but in some cases you won’t cause they’re really well ventilated,” said Bush.
Health Canada says seven per cent of homes have higher than acceptable levels of radon but in Saskatchewan, it’s 16 per cent. In the Regina Qu’Appelle, Sunrise and Cypress Health Regions, 25 per cent of homes test above the acceptable standard.
“We have people that call us cause they’ve developed lung cancer but they’ve never smoked and they’re looking at perhaps other reasons why,” said Jill Hubick, with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
Radon detection kits can be purchased from the association or a hardware store for about $50.
Health Canada recommends a three-month testing period for radon. The fall and winter months are the best time to test as people keep their windows and doors closed.
If the test comes back higher than Health’s Canada’s guideline of 200 Bq/m3, one solution is to hire a mitigation expert to install a system to divert the radon outside of the home. Depending on the house, a system can cost an average of $3,000.