Merrittonians urged to test homes for radon

By on November 14, 2016
BC Lung Association’s Carlynn Ferguson-King and Richie Gage encourage homeowners to test for radon. (Photo courtesy of the BC Lung Association).

The BC Lung Association is pushing Merrittonians to get radon-aware this winter by testing their homes for the presence of the radioactive gas, a known carcinogen.

Radon gas comes from uranium in the soil, explained Britt Swoveland, provincial RadonAware manager for the BC Lung Association. Merritt is known to have pockets of uranium in the soil, which can lead to dangerously high levels of radon seeping through the foundation of a home, she added.

A radon test kit available through the BC Lung Association website

A radon test kit available through the BC Lung Association website

“If you have uranium, you have a potential source of radon,” said Swoveland. “The concern is when you have a structure like a home, a workplace or a school and it can infiltrate anywhere the foundation is touching the soil.”

As radon is a relatively heavy gas, it tends to accumulate in the ground floor or basement of a structure, said Swoveland.

Health Canada guidelines state that prolonged exposure to high levels of radon is a serious lung cancer risk. Exposure to the colourless, odourless radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada after smoking.

Though radon gas exists almost everywhere at some level, Swoveland explained that the test kits being distributed through the BC Lung Association test whether a home is above the acceptable level set by Health Canada (200 becquerels per cubic metre).

The test kits are available through the BC Lung Association’s website for $60.

If high levels of radon are detected in a home, it isn’t necessary to start perusing real estate ads for a new place to live, said Swoveland. Instead, a radon ventilation tube can be installed in a home, which allows radon gas to be circulated outside of a home, rather than accumulating in basements or ground levels.

“We have certified professionals around the province who are specifically trained in doing this kind of remediation and putting in these systems,” said Swoveland.

Due to changes made to the BC Building Code in 2014, new structures identified as being in the elevated risk area for radon gas are now required to have a radon vent tube. Buildings constructed before the changes aren’t required to update however, so Swoveland still encouraged people to test out their own homes.

And for those who test their homes and find an elevated rating, Swoveland recommended letting neighbours know as there is a strong likelihood that neighbouring homes could be experiencing elevated levels of radon as well.

“We have done large community wide testing, like we did in Prince George, where we tested thousands of homes and one postal code area, one in two homes was above the posted guidelines,” said Swoveland.

One Comment

  1. Allen Peters

    November 15, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Good article on radon but I sure would like to see some investigative reporting on results found in the Merritt area. Has anyone spent the $60 to find out if this is a real problem in our area? If radon is coming from pockets of uranium in the soil have our public health agencies completed any sampling to determine if the public is at risk? Maybe Mary Polak, environment minister could take up the torch before the next election.

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