Toronto Star

Radon Action Month

Alan Whitehead, The President of the Canadian Associatio­n of Radon Scientists and Technologi­sts (CARST), addresses why homeowners should be conscious of radon — one of Canada’s leading causes of lung cancer.

- Photo credit: Radon Environmen­tal Management Corp. Sherry Li

Insight from Alan Whitehead of CARST on how to protect yourself against this silent killer.

1 What is radon and where can it be found?

Radon is an odourless, colourless, and lethally toxic radioactiv­e gas that is found in rocks and soil and is present in every indoor environmen­t, including homes, schools, and workplaces, to some degree.

2 What are the health effects of radon exposure?

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading environmen­tal cause of cancer mortality. Health Canada estimates 8-10 Canadians die every day from radon induced lung cancer.

3 Who are the most vulnerable to the effects of radon?

Everyone is vulnerable — whenwe inhale radon gas it emits alpha radiation and damages the DNA in our body. This damage leads to mutations, which turn cells into cancer. Children, whose lungs are rapidly developing, and have higher respirator­y rates than adults, are particular­ly vulnerable.

4 Why is radon something all homeowners should be aware of?

Good indoor air quality is essential to a healthy home,and it is a homeowner’s duty to protect their family from known health risks such as exposure to radon. While it’s true that all homes are susceptibl­e to high levels of radon, newer homes built during the last 25 years are particular­ly susceptibl­e to having higher levels of radon, due to measures taken to reduce/ con serve energy consumptio­n. These homeowners should take extra precaution­s.

5 How can you detect radon? Are there any warning signs to look out for?

The only way to know if radon is a problem in your home is to test for it. Sadly, the only warning sign is when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer, and the home subsequent­ly tests high for radon.The good news is it is easy and inexpensiv­e to test for radon and fix the issue if levels are high.

6 What can homeowners do to protect themselves from radon?

It begins with testing — a homeowner can self-test by purchasing a radon detector from a reputable supplier, one that offers a range of options, and has C-NRPP certified radon measuremen­t and profession­als on staff that can advise the homeowner if needed.

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