November 14, 2017 8:02 pm
Updated: November 14, 2017 9:16 pm

1 in 8 Calgary homes have high levels of cancer causing radon gas: U of C study

WATCH: Have you had your home tested for radon? You may want to. A study done by the University of Calgary has found an alarming amount of homes in Calgary exceeding the acceptable levels of radon. As Lisa MacGregor reports, the radioactive gas is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking.

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It’s colourless, odourless, and dangerous. If you haven’t tested your home for radon in Alberta, it can increase your risk of lung cancer.

In a new study done by the University of Calgary, researchers tested radon levels in more than 2,300 Calgary and area homes. One in eight exceeded Health Canada’s acceptable radon levels.

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Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine, is encouraging Albertans to have their home’s radon levels tested for their own safety.

“Homes will not be devalued by this, rather, you will render yourself safe from walking into a clinic in a few decades time with a cancer that honestly at this point, we cannot do much about,” Dr. Goodarzi said. “Anyone with young kids and teenagers in the home should be especially motivated to test their house.”

Dr. Goodarzi said Calgary’s Cancer Centre has already seen 300 patients it shouldn’t have because of radon.

‘It’s believed that overwhelmingly, those are the consequences of chronic radon exposure,” Dr. Goodarzi said. “Homes built in the last 25 years actually had up to 30 per cent higher radon compared to homes built more than 25 years ago. What features of those houses are conferring the problem? By knowing that, we can develop the solutions.”

READ MORE: Is there too much radon in your home? Only 6 per cent of Canadians test for dangerous gas

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking. Radon is radioactive gas produced from the decay of uranium and radium. It moves from the ground, under and around your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

The radon kits used in the study cost $60, including postage and can be ordered online by signing up. All it takes is 90 days and uses a small testing device that’s a little bit smaller than a hockey puck.

Bragg Creek homeowner Gordon McIlwin didn’t want to risk living in a house full of radon, so he tested his basement over 90 days using the U of C’s kit. It turned out his house had five times Health Canada’s acceptable limit.

“I’ve spent 17 years right here on this spot that I’m on and I’m getting readings of over 1000 (radon level reading),” McIlwin said. “It’s my health, it’s my wife’s health, it’s people who come into the house’s health and I don’t want to jeopordize those things.”

The Canadian guideline for radon is 200 becquerels per cubic metre. If the radon level is found to be high, it can be fixed.

McIlwin hired a qualified contractor to mitigate the radon from his home and he says the entire process took one day.

“(They) Cut the hole in the floor (of the basement), then they start building this column like pipe. Basically stick the pipe in, put on the clamps, install the fan which runs continuously and is plugged into the wall and it’s up and out the side of the house.”

McIlwin said the peace of mind his family now has is priceless.

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