Does radon exist in Alberta? The Lung Association’s Amy Elefson sets the record straight

 

Winter is coming and as the months get colder, households in Alberta should consider testing their homes for radon, an odourless, colourless, and tasteless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Amy Elefson, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT, breaks down what is fact from fiction when it comes to radon in one of her two latest blog posts about this topic. To check out her blog, click here or read below:

Since many of you will be taking the time to test your homes for radon, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT would like to take the time to clarify common misconceptions about radon.

Below you’ll find 5 common myths, and the reasons why they are myths. If you don’t know what radon is, visit www.ab.lung.ca/site/radon  and www.takeactiononradon.ca first!

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Myths:

1)       There’s no radon in Alberta.

Fact: No region of the country is considered “radon-free”, but the levels of radon differ from region to region depending on the uranium concentration in the soil. The large majority of homes will have some level of radon, though that level varies widely from home to home. It has even been shown that immediate neighbours can have vastly different radon levels.

2)       There’s no evidence linking radon and lung cancer.

Fact: Studies in both North America and Europe have found a strong association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer. These studies confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies completed on underground miners who inhaled radon over a several year period. It is known that radon is a carcinogen, and these studies demonstrate that exposure to radon, even at moderate levels, can lead to lung cancer.

3)       I don’t have a basement; I’m not at risk of radon exposure. Fact: If your home is in contact with the ground (i.e. not on stilts) radon can potentially enter. This means that regardless of whether a home has a basement, crawl space or is built on a slab of foundation; the risk of radon accumulation exists.

4)       There’s no risk associated with a radon level below 200 Bq/m3.

Fact: Since radon is a radioactive gas, there is no “safe” level. However … the lower the level, the lower the risk. In addition, the risk of developing lung cancer depends on two other important factors: duration of exposure and tobacco use. The number of years a person is exposed will affect the potential of developing lung cancer. As we know, tobacco use in general is a risk factor for lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer if you are a lifetime smoke is one in ten. Your risk increases to one in three if you are exposed to high levels of radon. This is compared to a one in twenty risk if you are a non-smoker exposed to the same high levels of radon.

5)       My neighbour’s radon mitigation system vents into my side yard, I’m being exposed to high levels of radon because of them.

Fact: If your neighbour’s radon mitigation system has been properly installed, with sufficient room between the end of the pipe and your house, then the radon will dissipate rapidly and only minimal atmospheric levels of radon will be found around your home.

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