Hastings and Prince Edward County Public Health are offering hundreds of free radon kits as part of a radon study in the area.
According to the public health unit, radon is “a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soils,” which cannot be seen and has no smell.
It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.
The Canadian guideline for acceptable levels of radon levels in a home is 200 becquerels (Bq) per cubic meter. The public health unit describes a becquerel as a single radioactive disintegration per second.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization’s limit for healthy radon levels is 100 Bq per cubic metre.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health and CEO of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, says it was decided to conduct the study after test results came back for the Kingston region, stating that over 20 per cent of homes tested were above the Health Canada guideline for radon, while over half the homes tested above the World Health Organization’s guidelines.
Oglaza said the Hastings area shares similar geography with Kingston, and he expects some homes in his region to have high levels of radon.
The purpose behind the study is twofold: first, to gain some substantive numbers about radon levels in the region, and second, to raise awareness about radon to those who might not even know it’s in their homes.
As part of the study, Oglaza said, the health unit will be giving away 850 radon test kits to those who qualify. These people will be asked to keep the kit in a lower portion of their home for three months, where Oglaza says radon usually collects, and then return the kits to the health unit for testing.
Applications for the free kits opened on Nov. 1, and will remain open until Nov. 15.
If for some reason an applicant does not meet the requirements for the study, the kits can be purchased from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
Oglaza said if high levels of radon are detected in a home, it’s important to implement mitigation strategies within a year. Radon becomes dangerous over prolonged exposure, rather than immediate exposure, so Oglaza said solutions can be instituted over a period of time.
He said one of the the simplest and most effective ways to combat radon collection in a home is to have proper ventilation.
“Radon tends to be lower in older homes that are less energy efficient,” Oglaza said.
The more energy-efficient the home, the more there are efforts to seal heat inside, but Oglaza said this can also seal in radioactive gas.
Oglaza said while energy efficiency is important, those who do have high levels of radon might need to consult a radon mitigation specialist to see how they can better ventilate their home.
He also added that radon levels can and do vary from home to home, so he suggests those who do not participate in the study to test for radon anyway.
To apply for a free radon kit, visit the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health unit’s website.