Health unit recommends radon test in homes to protect against lung cancer
SIMCOE MUSKOKA - The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is joining Health Canada and other public health units in recommending that residents test their homes for radon gas.
Ongoing research confirms that long-term exposure to radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. In a recent Ontario study, nearly 14 per cent of all lung cancer deaths are linked to radon exposure.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soil. It may seep into buildings through cracks in foundation floors and walls, gaps in service pipes, open floor drains or any other area of exposed soil. Radon gas is invisible, odorless and tasteless. In fact, the only way to know the radon level in your home is to test for it.
The cancer risk from radon exposure develops over the long term and depends on the level of radon, the length of exposure and a person’s smoking habits.
“Radon gas exposure is a health consideration for Canadians, but few homeowners are aware of the risk or how to protect themselves from it,” says Dr. Nikhil Rajaram, Acting Associate Medical Officer of Health at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. He added “smoking is the leading contributor to lung cancer in Canada. However, those who are exposed to both radon and tobacco smoke have a dramatically increased risk compared with either exposure alone.” The health unit is joining other public health units in an awareness campaign to help people understand the issue.
A national study completed by Health Canada found higher than recommended radon levels in some homes tested throughout the country. Radon levels vary from one house to another, even if they are next door to each other. Concentrations are generally highest in basements and lower levels of homes.
The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to test your home. The most accurate test kits monitor the air for a minimum of three months and are then mailed to a lab. These test kits are available for purchase at local retailers and online. Health Canada recommends testing during the winter months in the lowest-lived in level of your home. The testing process costs between $25 and $75.
The tests measure the radioactivity of the gas, in units per cubic metre (Bq/m3). Health Canada sets a recommended limit of 200 Bq/m3. A reading at that level or higher indicates the homeowners should take action to reduce the radon levels in the home. The higher the level, the sooner it needs to be fixed. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit provides information to guide homeowners in testing for radon and how to find a certified radon mitigation contractor, if needed.
Quitting smoking is another important way to reduce risk, since the combination of smoking and radon exposure dramatically increases the chance of developing lung cancer.
For more information on radon and quitting smoking, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520) weekdays, 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. or visit www.simcoemuskokahealth.org<http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org>. Information from the Government of Canada is also available at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/environ/radon-eng.php.
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