Smoking remains the number one cause of lung cancer diagnosis. However, radon gas exposure is quickly changing the way Canadians think about lung cancer. Radon exposure is now the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, yet many Canadians have never heard of it.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs when uranium in the soil breaks down. It is an invisible, odourless and tasteless gas that can accumulate to unnaturally high and dangerous levels in our home.
Researchers at the University of Calgary have launched the Evict Radon initiative, a research study encouraging Canadian’s to test their home for radon gas while sharing home metrics and radon data with the University.
“By testing with us at Evict Radon, we’re able to map out Canada’s radon problem and learn more about our homes and what causes high levels of radon to accumulate in our basements and lower levels,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure Disease and University of Calgary Professor.
“If people test their home in silos, of course they learn their home radon level (if they test correctly), but that does nothing for the greater good. We’re trying to understand why certain homes have high levels of radon and in order to do that, we need people to test through the study.”
“An Evict Radon test kit comes with everything you need to get the most accurate reading possible. You simply deploy one of our devices for a minimum of 90 days, register it online, fill out a survey for us and then send it back once it’s finished – I don’t think we could have made it any easier for people,” says Goodarzi.
Radon is radioactive, specifically alpha particle radiation. These alpha particles blast through the DNA of our lungs. Our body is then responsible for fixing the gaps that are created. However, sometimes our body gets it wrong and mutations form. These mutations are what leads to lung cancer.
For year’s Health Canada has encouraged Canadian’s to test their homes for radon. In Canada, 200Bq/m3 is considered the maximum allowable, with advice being to strive for as low as reasonably achievable. We have observed some homes in Western Canada with radon as high as 10,000Bq/m3, which is the equivalent of 60,000 dental x-ray equivalents of radiation each year!
It sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve found that on average 1 in 6 homes have high levels of radon. The most important thing is not to ignore it and think you don’t have a problem. Testing is the only way to ensure your home contains safe levels of radon. If, after testing, it’s determined that you do indeed have a radon level higher than Health Canada’s maximum allowable limit, a radon mitigator can install a system in your basement to lower the radon levels to a safe amount. It really is a simple fix.
Screening for lung cancer is very difficult. Preventing radon-induced lung cancer is not. Take the first step and test your home for radon. Contribute to lung cancer research by ordering an Evict Radon test kit today. Available from Oct – end of February.