By Caroline Cox, Program Coordinator at EcoSuperior Environmental Programs
Like many parts of Canada, Northwestern Ontario has a radon problem. Approximately 13% of houses – almost double the national average – test high for radon. Yet until last year, little was done to make residents aware of radon levels, and no local contractors were certified to mitigate for houses with high test results.
In 2014, with funding from Health Canada, EcoSuperior Environmental Programs began outreach to increase radon awareness and encourage local contractors to provide radon measurement and mitigation services.
Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer in Canada and causes more lung cancer deaths (16%) than second-hand smoke. The news is even worse for smokers exposed to radon: they have a one-in-three chance of developing lung cancer, compared to a one-in-20 chance for non-smokers exposed to radon. Given the high rates of smoking in Northwestern Ontario, an awareness campaign is especially needed.
When uranium breaks down in soil, it creates the radioactive gas radon, which can enter houses through foundation cracks, sump pits, water sources or anywhere else the house come in contact with the ground.
You can’t see or smell radon. The only way to know your home’s level is to test.
One of EcoSuperior’s goals was to increase radon testing in Northwestern Ontario. EcoSuperior stocks long-term DIY test kits which stay in place for three months to a year and return the most accurate results. Homeowners can set up test kits themselves or hire a measurement professional. Find a radon professional by clicking here.
Houses with high radon levels (above 200 Bq/m3) should be fixed by a mitigation professional certified by the Canadian Radiation Proficiency Program. Until recently, the nearest professionals were in Sault Ste. Marie and Winnipeg, both more than 700 kms from Thunder Bay.
In November 2014, EcoSuperior coordinated a Radon Awareness workshop, which engaged local stakeholders such as engineering consultants, contractors, homeowners, and health care professionals. One goal was to interest local professionals in becoming certified to test and mitigate for radon. A year later, five local professionals are certified to test for radon and a staff member at TBT Engineering is a certified mitigation professional.
EcoSuperior has also set up a radon demonstration area in its office, where the public can view testing and mitigation techniques.
To learn more about radon levels in your area check out Health Canada’s 2012 Cross-Country Survey of Radon Concentrations in Homes. For more information on radon, visit Health Canada’s website.