WATCH: It’s a silent killer in our homes, killing more than 3,000 Canadians a year, which is why the Canadian Cancer Society is giving free radon test kits to some Vancouver Island communities. Tess van Straaten reports.
It’s a silent killer that claims more 3,000 lives a year in Canada but not many people know about radon gas.
“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non smokers and it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer overall,” says Jenny Byford of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Radon seeps into homes and other buildings from the ground and because it’s colourless, odourless and tasteless , people have no idea it’s there.
“It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the ground,” explains Kelley Bush of Health Canada. “When it comes out of the ground outside it gets diluted and it’s not a health concern but if it finds a way into an enclosed space, like a home, then it can accumulate to high levels and it becomes a health risk.”
That’s why the Canadian Cancer Society is launching a new program that will see hundreds of Vancouver Islanders get free test kits.
“There’s been some testing done on the Island in recent years but it’s been limited so our project is seeking to send out a larger number of test kits and see what the potential could be,” Byford says.
Radon potential mapping shows some parts of the Island as high risk, including the Nanaimo area.
Colwood and Gordon Head have an elevated risk, which is why those three communities have been chosen for the free kits but health experts say all homes could be in danger.
“It’s not a question of whether or not you have Radon in your home,” Bush says. “You do. It’s in this house, it’s outside, it’s everywhere. The question is: How much? And the higher the level, the higher the risk.”
Radon gas is easy to remove if levels in your home are too high
The good news is that radon gas is easy to get rid of by sealing cracks, increasing ventilation or installing a radon reduction system.
New national building codes were added in 2010 to protect against radon entry.
“Radon is something that is completely preventable so if you can reduce your cancer risk this is an easy way to do so,” Byford says.
Six hundred free test kits are available from the Canadian Cancer Society for the three Vancouver Island target communities.
Anyone interested can email the address for their area:
For more information on radon, click on this Health Canada link.