Radon Research Series

Not all communities are equivalent in their radon exposure. Across the world, it has been documented that houses in more rural (less populated) areas have innately higher radon. The reasons for this have remained relatively unclear. Over the past three years, we have examined differences in Canadian residential radon gas exposure between different community types (city versus large town versus small town versus village-hamlet-isolated properties) across the urban-to-rural paradigm, classified by Statistics Canada (based on population density).

We find substantial differences between community types, with people in rural communities in any Canadian province or territory experiencing >30% greater levels of residential radon exposure relative to urban populations.

A detailed analysis established that these differences were not explained simply by housing features but rather the combination of two key factors:

  1.  Rural communities are more likely to contain single-storey, single-detached houses of a larger floorplan (relative to urban areas)
  2.  Rural community houses are more likely to have a high density of drilled groundwater wells nearby the property, which operate as an (unintentional) migration pathway for deep-underground radon levels to reach the upper layers of soil.

This work highlights a community-based disparity in Canadian residential radon exposure and a clear need for targeted radon awareness and reduction services in these areas.

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