Radon, which is a known carcinogen, is a leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in the U.S. as well as Canada. Radon gas occurs naturally and while there is no way of stopping it from being created, mitigation steps need to be in place with testing for the gas a prime requirement.
Agencies in the US and Canada are calling upon all schools and homes to get tested for Radon because the gas is known to build up to dangerous levels and harm the health of children as well as residents. Radon is odourless and hence it can’t be detected through regular means.
The gas is a by-product of the natural, radioactive decay of uranium in soils and rocks. Areas where there are rich deposits of Uranium underneath the surface could have Radon in the air, but those levels are not dangerous in the open environment. If the gas enters homes or schools or other buildings through drains, cracks or holes in the foundation or basement, it could build up to dangerous levels.
The risk of developing lung cancer depends on the concentration of radon in the air and the length of exposure. Elevated levels of radon are typically found in the interior and northern parts of the province of BC, with other areas also having higher radon levels. Radonlevels can vary significantly from one building to another, and even room to room with a building.
In Canada the Radon concentrations are measured at becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) while in the US it is measured in picocuries per liter of air represented as “pCi/L.”
According to a resolution passed last year the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, regular testing in B.C. schools, and many districts have taken the suggestion in stride. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has designated January as National Radon Action Month in the US and recommends that all homes, whether old or new, be tested for radon.
Between 1991 and 1999, 400 schools in North Thompson, Nelson, Castlegar, South Okanagan, Trail, Penticton, Vernon, Prince George and Kelowna were tested for radon, and some remediation work was done at that time. In 2007, Health Canada lowered their guideline for when radon remediation should be undertaken from 800 Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) to 200 Bq/m3.
In case of US, the average concentration of radon in outdoor air is 0.4 pCi/L, but the radon levels inside a home that are 4.0 pCi/L or higher should be mitigated.
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