One-in-four Manitoba homes contain higher than accepted radon levels

07 November 2013

Manitoba -

With nearly one-in-four Manitoba homes having higher radon levels than what is advised by Health Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society is advising residents who spend significant time in their basements to have them tested for radon gas.

The need for testing is greatest among Manitobans who live in the Prairie Mountain Health Region – the area in and around Brandon and Dauphin – where 41% of homes have higher than accepted levels of radon gas.

“Radon accounts for 16% of all cases of lung cancer in Canada every year,” said Erin Crawford, Senior Director of Public Issues and Community Engagement with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Manitoba Division. “It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

“Because of our soil composition, we know that radon gas is more likely to build up in Manitoba homes.”

Across Canada about 11% of homes have radon gas levels higher than Health Canada standards.  In Manitoba, 24% of homes have higher than the acceptable levels.

Radon is a naturally occurring, colourless, odourless cancer-causing gas that enters homes through cracks and gaps in the floors and walls of basements and can build up over time.

“Radon can be an issue in all types of homes whether they are new or old, with finished or unfinished basements, whether they are heavily sealed or drafty,” Crawford said.  “While some parts of the province are more likely to have radon gas build-ups, any Manitoba home can be at risk.

“The only way to find out if your home has high radon levels is to test.”

The Cancer Society is particularly concerned for homeowners who spend significant time in their basements or have children spending significant time in the basement.  This includes Manitobans renting basement apartments or those with children in basement daycares.  All should be tested for radon.

If a home has radon levels higher than Health Canada’s guideline of 200 Bq/m3, the Cancer Society recommends home owners take immediate action. 

Unlike carbon monoxide there are no immediate symptoms to signal the presence of radon.  There are no known health effects other than lung cancer. There are also no medical tests available to see if you have been exposed to radon.

The Cancer Society believes people have the right to know if they are being exposed to cancer causing substances in their homes, environment or workplaces. This allows them to make informed decisions and take actions that could impact their health.

 “If your home does have high radon levels, the problem can be fixed, and the costs of repair are often low,” says Crawford.   “But first, you need to test your home.”

What can you do?

Get your home tested. Radon is easy to test for and can usually be reduced to safe levels by installing ventilation fans.  Everyone should check their home but those who live in older homes, spend time in their basement or smoke are at higher risk.

Long term testing (3 months – 1 year) produces more accurate results than short term testing.  Test kits can be found at some local hardware stores, the Home Depot, through a certified radon testing professional, or by contacting the Winnipeg or Brandon Cancer Society offices.

You can find Canadian radon testing service providers listed on the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) website at: neha-nrpp.org/cnrpp.shtml.

If your home does test positive for high levels of radon there are several things you can do right away:

  • There are certified radon mitigation contractors who can help you to fix your home or can advise you of the best next steps.
  • They may suggest upgrades such as to seal any cracks around pipes and any other openings below ground. Opening air vents in the basement to create positive air pressure may also be suggested.

For more valuable information about radon and how to test your home visit cancer.ca.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society

Manitoba

Phone: 204-990-4310