News / Calgary

Campaign urges Albertans to test for radon

Radon gas is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking

Researchers Fintan Stanley and Aaron Goodarzi examine cells for radon damage in their University of Calgary lab.

Elizabeth Cameron / For Metro

Researchers Fintan Stanley and Aaron Goodarzi examine cells for radon damage in their University of Calgary lab.

Researchers from the University of Calgary (U of C) are launching a province-wide campaign to encourage Albertans to have their homes tested for radon gas, a known carcinogen found in dangerous levels within approximately one in eight homes.

The campaign wants to raise awareness about radon – a natural, colourless and odourless gas which permeates through soil towards low pressure areas, such as basements – and to help map affected households throughout the province.

Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

A study of more than 2,300 homes in Calgary published earlier this year by the U of C revealed one in eight residences exceeded Health Canada’s acceptable radon levels.

“We’ve proven radon is prevalent throughout southern Alberta and in Calgary area homes. Now we want to expand our research to include all areas of the province,” said lead researcher Aaron Goodarzi, an assistant professor in the biochemistry and molecular biology and oncology departments at the U of C.

After Scott Fleming’s wife was diagnosed with cancer two years ago (a type unrelated to radon, he said), the couple wanted to eliminate potential causes in their home and work environments.

During his research, Fleming came across an online article about radon and sure enough, a test kit purchased online revealed slightly higher than acceptable radon levels in their home.

Radon testing kits cost about $60.

UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY

Radon testing kits cost about $60.

“It was fairly shocking to stumble on something that’s in our home and we didn't even know about,” Fleming said. “It’s something I haven’t heard of before, despite having lived in Alberta all my life.”

He expected the mitigation process to have a large price tag, but said he was pleasantly surprised by the final cost – especially considering the potential upsides.

“I thought I’d have to do major work in my basement, but it was quick – it was done in a single day – and was relatively inexpensive,” Fleming said, urging others to get their own home tested.

“You have no way of knowing what you’re dealing with – it could come back as fine, and that’s great if so – but if it isn’t, I would sure want to know,” he said.

Goodarzi said it’s best to test for radon in the winter.

“From now to April (is) the ideal time to test your home,” he said. “That’s when we spend more time inside, and due to the cold our homes are sealed up tight – the perfect conditions for radon exposure,” he said.

To learn more about the campaign visit www.evictradon.ca.

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