Kerri Tucker was shocked to learn she had lung cancer.
“It was devastating news,” she said. “I’ve never smoked a day in my life.”
At first, the mother of three thought she had pneumonia when a persistent cough wouldn’t go away.
Tests determined otherwise.
“I knew that radon was the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. They did tests for other possibilities after I had surgery and all of those things came back negative. And so it was the only reasonable answer.”
The Lung Association of Saskatchewan said one-third of homes tested in Saskatchewan in a national study had dangerous levels of radon.
It’s even higher in Regina, where 50 per cent of the homes tested exceeded Health Canada’s radon guideline.
“There is no safe level of radon, however, the risk of radon exposure that residents living in the Prairie provinces face is alarming and very concerning,” said Jill Hubick, a registered nurse with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have the second-highest radon-exposed population in the world, trailing only Poland, says Evict Radon.
The association has launched a province-wide campaign to have all residents test their homes for radon gas.
Tucker believes she was exposed to radon in a house she grew up in. Testing on her current home found radon levels to be within the safe limits.
She is now urging everyone to have their home tested.
“I want people to know that radon is a real issue in Saskatchewan and it can be in dangerously high levels in a lot of people’s homes in our city and in our province,” Tucker said.
“I really want people to test their homes and prevent having this type of cancer.”
Radon, a gas formed by the breakdown of uranium, forms radioactive particles as it breaks down, which can then lodge in lung tissue creating a risk of lung cancer.
It is invisible, odourless and tasteless, and can only be detected with a long-term radon test kit.
Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, Canada research chair for radiation exposure disease and lead researcher at Evict Radon, said radon is a significant issue in Saskatchewan.
“It is only once we understand how radon is getting into our homes in the first place, will we be able to remedy the problem,” Goodarzi said
Hubick said testing is the only way to determine radon levels.
“Testing for radon is really easy. It’s inexpensive and anyone can do it,” Hubick said.
“We want people to know their numbers, test their homes and do whatever they can to bring their levels down.”
Hubick said there are ways the association can help people reduce radon levels in their homes.
“We have certified radon mitigation experts in our province that can come into the home, let you know how it’s getting in and how you can fix it,” Hubick said.
“Sometimes it means sealing up cracks in the foundation of the homes, making sure that drains are fitted properly.”
Tucker said she has one more chemotherapy treatment and her prognosis is very good.
“Lung cancer from radon happened to me and can happen to you too, but it’s completely preventable,” Tucker said.
“Protect your family. Test your home for radon.”