Radon

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Radon gas is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that is released during the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. Radon levels outdoors are generally low, but radon gas indoors poses more of a problem. The gas can enter buildings through cracks and openings in floors, leading to higher levels, especially in basements and lower floors. Over time, exposure to radon increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Health Canada estimates that over 3,000 Canadians die each year due to radon gas exposure (Chen et al., 2012). Smoking places people at higher risk from radon exposure, increasing the odds of developing lung cancer from 1 in 20 to 1 in 3 (Health Canada, 2010).

Radon levels indoors are influenced by:

  • Geography, as uranium and radon levels vary naturally in soils across the country
  • Household construction methods and architectural design
  • Natural ventilation options and ventilation systems

The only way to know if radon is present indoors is to test. Health Canada recommends that all homes be tested (Health Canada, 2013) and those over 200 becquerels per meters cubed (Bq/m3) should be mitigated. This standard applies to public buildings as well, including schools, libraries and childcare facilities. Radon mitigation systems installed by certified professionals are very effective at reducing radon levels even when results far exceed the recommended guideline. A list of certified professionals by region is available at the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program.

NCCEH Resources

  • Radon: Public Health and Cancer Prevention (NCCEH, 2019)
    This short animated video outlines steps that public health professionals can take to reduce radon gas exposure.
     
  • Experiences with BC First Nations community-based radon testing: Successes and lessons learned (Neathway et al, 2018)
    This article, published in Environmental Health Review, describes a multi-year home radon testing program in First Nations communities in British Columbia. The article outlines key elements, such as developing local champions and clearly identifying funding issues that led to a very high rate of homes being tested and mitigated.
     
  • Inuit and Metis radon research across the country (NCCEH, 2018)
    Two presentations provide an historical overview of radon testing conducted in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities across Canada.  Resources uncovered include a 1993 federal testing program of homes as well as a more recent federal program that included testing in administration buildings, schools and other public spaces in first nations communities.
     
  • Radon and child care facilities (NCCEH, 2017)
    This presentation was made at the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors National Annual Education conference by NCCEH staff in conjunction with an environmental health officer from the British Columbia Interior Health Authority.
     
  • Call for action on radon in childcare settings (Phipps et al, 2017)
    This article from Environmental Health Review is co-authored by NCCEH staff and outlines the rationale for implementing regulations to govern the testing of radon in child-care settings across Canada.
     
  • Public health ethics: A case for environmental health (NCCHPP, 2016)
    The National Collaborating Centre for Health Public Policy, in conjunction with the NCCEH and the INSPQ, hosted a webinar to discuss the ethical dimensions involved in testing for radon in childcare facilities.
     
  • Radon: Public health professionals can make a difference (Nicol et al, 2015)
    This NCCEH article published in the Environmental Health Review is aimed at providing information on radon risks and mitigation to public health inspectors.
     
  • Radon and lung cancer (NCCEH, 2015)
    Invited presentations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (HESA) by NCCEH staff regarding radon and the risk of lung cancer.
     

Other Selected Resources

Peer-Reviewed Canadian Radon Literature

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

 

Last updated Nov 05, 2020