By Andru McCracken
Results from a campaign to test radon levels in Valemount and McBride are back and tests show that 10 per cent of homes in Valemount and 17 per cent of homes in McBride reported levels higher than 200 becquerels per cubic metre. The B.C. average is eight per cent of homes.
That measurement, becquerels per cubic metre, is a measure of radioactivity and 200 becquerels per cubic metre is the limit outlined by Health Canada. Anything above that indicates something should be done to mitigate radon levels.
In all, 62 radon testing kits were deployed in Valemount and 41 kits were deployed in McBride.
In a letter to the village councils, Pam Warkentin urged both councils to continue playing a role in raising awareness about radon.
What’s the fuss about Radon?
Radon is an invisible and odorless radioactive gas and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. A campaign called ‘Take Action on Radon’ was spearheaded by a coalition of national health organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society.
Where does it come from?
Radon gas is the natural result of trace amounts of uranium naturally breaking down. Radon enters homes from the ground.
What can be done?
It’s pretty simple to deal with. Radon is emitted from the ground, so installing a fan to exhaust air from the ground around your home can prevent radon from building up.
How new or old your house is, isn’t a good indication of whether you will have problems with radon. The only way to know for sure, according to Pam Warkentin, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and the Project Manager for Take Action on Radon, is to test for it
Test kits were provided for free to homeowners that signed up for the program, the results of the test for each home were kept confidential but the data is being shared at a community level.
How do I test for it?
A radon detector is placed in your home for three months and then shipped to the lab for testing. Results of the tests are only communicated to homeowners to protect their privacy.
Radon tests can be purchased at Robson Valley Home Hardware in McBride and Valemount Home Hardware.
“Many Canadians still don’t know that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and that simply reducing radon exposure can save lives,” said Warkentin. “We commend the villages for their leadership in bringing attention to this cancer-causing gas and helping its residents test their homes.”
Warkentin said that long-term exposure to high levels of radon damages the DNA in lung tissue and is currently leading to over 3,000 Canadian deaths each year – more than the combined toll of car collisions, house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and drowning combined.
If the radon level is high (above 200 Bq/m3), homeowners should take action to reduce it by consulting a certified radon reduction specialist.