More people in and around Williams Lake should have their homes tested for radon gas, said Dr. Menn Biagtan, program manager with the BC Lung Association.
“That’s the reason we’re increasing our efforts to create awareness among the public, especially in Northern B.C. and in the Interior which are found to be radon-rich areas,” Biagtan told the Tribune/Advisor.
Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced from the natural breakdown of uranium rocks and soil. It can enter a home through any openings in the floors and foundations and build up to dangerous levels.
“The more homes we can encourage to test the better because then we will have a better picture of how many homes and families are exposed to high levels of radon in each of the areas,” Biagtan said.
Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and has been found in high concentrations in Northern B.C., the Canadian Cancer Society said in a press release issued this week to mark Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Health Canada estimates that 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada are caused by radon and that an estimated 500,000 Canadians are living in homes that exceed the federal guidelines of 200 Bq/m3 for radon exposure.
The risk of developing lung cancer depends on how much radon a person is exposed to, how long they are exposed as well as whether or not they smoke.
“Radon occurs as a result of the natural decay of uranium in rocks and soil and Northern B.C. is known for having high concentrations in the basements of some homes,” said Dr. Ronald Chapman, A/Chief Medical Health Officer, Northern Health. “The only way to know if your home has high radon levels is to test it.”
And the test is simple, Biagtan said.
The test takes a minimum of 90 days with a kit placed in the home and then if levels are detected, it’s an easy fix.
“That’s the good news,” Biagtan said.
Northern Health Authority is selling the kits for $30 and that includes analysis.
The kit is sent to a lab and the lab sends it back with the results.
Once they find the results, and if the levels exceed accepted standards, then mitigation will need to be done to a house.
“There are effective ways to do mitigation in each of the homes,” she added.
It’s all about peace of mind, Biagtan said.
“People need to know whether or not they are being exposed to radon. And if they are they can do something about it.”
Biagtan said during the last five years while efforts have been made to create more awareness about radon gas and its link to lung cancer, hardware stores have been selling radon detection kits as well.