Q: What’s Invisible, Causes Cancer and Could Potentially Be in Your Home?

Written by admin, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014 – A: Radon – And Public Health Wants You to Test for It

Screen Shot 11-04-14 at 09.03 AMWith long term exposure to radon known to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, Peterborough Public Health is recommending radon testing for all homes to determine if you or your family is at risk of radon exposure.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium that is found in rocks and soil.  Radon gas is invisible: you can’t see, smell or taste it. In fact, the only way to know the radon level in your home is to test for it.

“Radon is a health consideration for Canadians, but few homeowners understand the risk or how to protect themselves against it,” says Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health. “The PCCHU is joining other public health units as part of a collaborative awareness campaign, to help people better understand this issue.”

A national study completed by Health Canada in 2012 found higher than recommended radon levels in homes tested throughout the country. Since results showed that radon can occur anywhere, i.e. in one house and not the one beside it, the location or the age of your home cannot be used to evaluate your risk of exposure to indoor radon.

Radon gas is able to enter buildings through cracks in foundation floors and walls, gaps in service pipes, open floor drains or any other area of exposed soil.  The highest concentrations of radon are generally found in basements and lower levels of homes.

The good news is that testing for radon is inexpensive and easy.  Test kits are available for purchase at local retailers and online. The Public Health has a limited supply of free radon kits for area residents at 185 King Street, Peterborough.  Health Canada recommends testing during the winter months in the lowest lived in area of your home as well as testing for a minimum of three months obtain the most accurate results.

Radon levels are measured in units called Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/M3). A Becquerel measures the number of radioactive decays of radon atoms.  One Becquerel is equal to one disintegration per second.  If your home tests above Health Canada’s guideline of 200 Bq/M3 it will need to be fixed.  The higher the level, the sooner it needs to be fixed.  If needed, Public Health provides information to guide homeowners in testing for radon and how to find a certified radon mitigation contractor.

Long-term exposure to high levels of radon increases your risk of developing lung cancer.  The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon, the length of exposure and a person’s smoking habits. Smoking combined with radon exposure greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.

For more information, please call a Public Health Inspector at 705-743-1000, ext. 285, or visit www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca and under “My Home & Environment – My Environment – Health Hazards” click on “Radon”.  Here you will find links to Health Canada materials, helpful videos and even a radon quiz to build your knowledge.

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For further information, please contact:

Brittany Cadence
Communications Supervisor
(705) 743-1000, ext. 391