Dr. Roberta Bondar, who made history as Canada’s first female astronaut, joined Global Halifax’s The Morning News Monday morning to share her concern about radon gas.
Bondar said it’s important to be aware of radon in the home environment, especially now that the tools exist to monitor it.
“We’re living in a wonderful age where technology can really improve our lives,” she said. “Sometimes when we look at technology, for the first time we’re able to identify things that before we didn’t know about. … It certainly is a very smart thing to try to stop having environmental hazards affect our health and our longevity on the planet.”
READ MORE: Nova Scotia government page with frequently asked questions about radon gas (external link)
Health Canada and the Canadian Lung Association are launching a public awareness campaign to warn about the dangers of the gas, which occurs naturally in areas of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Radon is a radioactive gas formed from the breakdown of uranium. It has no odour, colour or taste.
Radon can seep into homes through cracks in the foundation or pipe openings, and breathing it in can increase the risk of lung cancer. It is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in smokers and the leading cause in non-smokers.
READ MORE: New Brunswick government page with frequently asked questions about radon gas (external link)
The device to test for it is tiny, and contains an even smaller plastic film that can be removed to examine for traces of the gas.
Bondar said it’s a good idea to test for the presence of radon, no matter who you are or where you live.
“Everybody should be testing for this,” she said. “If we look right across the whole of North America…radon gas is there, and is emitted as a naturally occurring phenomenon. It just gets more concentrated in homes.”
She said radon levels can get more concentrated in the winter with more windows being closed due to inclement weather.
Testing for radon takes place over the course of a few months due to variances in everyday levels, which can be affected by external factors like barometric pressure.
If radon is found indoors, its concentration can be reduced to non-hazardous levels with a specially installed and ventilated fan.