Report calls on governments to step up action to reduce cancer-causing gas in indoor air
VANCOUVER — Health Canada should tighten its radon guideline to better protect Canadians from this radioactive gas, says a David Suzuki Foundation report released today. Naturally occurring in soils, radon can seep into buildings, accumulate and reach high levels in indoor air. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radon as a known human carcinogen, yet fewer than half of Canadians have heard of radon, and fewer still recognize it as a health hazard.
"Our national radon guideline is supposed to protect Canadians from this health hazard," said Lisa Gue, senior researcher and analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation. "Why then is Health Canada's guideline twice the level recommended by the World Health Organization?"
Sign up for our newsletter
Health Canada's radon guideline, established in 2007, is 200 bequerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3 is a measure of radioactivity). Based on new evidence that radon causes a significant number of cancer cases even at concentrations lower than 200 Bq/m3, the World Health Organization recommends that countries establish a reference level of 100 Bq/m3. The David Suzuki Foundation found that leading countries have revised their radon standards over the past decade and several now target levels lower than 100 Bq/m3.
The report recommends that Canada follow suit by lowering its target level and implementing complementary measures to ensure this revised standard is reached, including:
- Radon prevention, testing and mitigation (where necessary) in daycares, schools, hospitals and other public-access buildings;
- Incorporation and enforcement of radon prevention measures in provincial and territorial building codes;
- Government incentives and subsidies to encourage homeowners to test for radon and facilitate mitigation where necessary; and,
- Evaluate and implement innovative approaches to make radon "visible," for example with a new requirement for digital radon monitors in homes and public-access buildings.
The foundation also encourages individuals to test their homes for radon. Radon detectors can be purchased from some hardware stores, businesses specializing in radon detection and mitigation, the Radiation Safety Institute and lung associations across Canada.
"Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is responsible for up to 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada," said Scott McDonald, president and CEO of the British Columbia Lung Association. "The only way to know if you've got a radon problem in your home is to run a test. If levels are high, they can be lowered. But testing is the first step!"
The David Suzuki Foundation released the report to coincide with the 2015 Conference of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians (CARST) in Vancouver this week.
Communications specialist, David Suzuki Foundation
Katrina van Bylandt
Communications Manager, BC Lung Association