1 in 7 Hamilton homes has high levels of cancer-causing gas
Mac Christie Flamborough ReviewTuesday, March 23, 2021
Carlisle’s Geri Hall is urging Flamborough residents — and all Canadians — to test their homes for radon.
Hall, who has lived in her Carlisle home for four years, decided to test for the naturally occurring, cancer-causing gas in November after seeing a post about radon from Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge.
“I knew very little about radon before all of this and I saw Judi’s post on Facebook,” she said. “We decided just to go down to Home Hardware and get one of the little cheap testing kits — it’s a do-it-yourself kind of thing for about $30.”
The kit was sent away to be analyzed at a lab and the reading came back at almost 1,300 becquerels of radon per cubic metre.
Health Canada recommends homes be below 200 becquerels per cubic metres, while the World Health Organization recommends an indoor threshold of 100 Bq/m3.
Radon is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that is formed naturally by the radioactive breakdown of uranium contained in soil and rock — and is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of all lung cancers.
A survey of Hamilton homes last year found 1 in 7 showed basement levels of radon higher than Health Canada’s safety guideline.
Health Canada radon outreach head Kelly Bush says testing is easy and “so important.”
“It really is a significant health risk … but it is challenging to get anyone to pay attention,” she said, noting more people die from radon-linked cancer than from all accidental deaths combined. “So many people use smoke alarms, wear life jackets and seatbelts … Why not test for radon?”
Bush urged anyone with questions on how to test for radon to visit takeactiononradon.ca.
Following the results, Hall admits they “panicked’ and bought a permanent radon monitor — much like a carbon monoxide detector — which confirmed the results.
Hall hired a radon mitigation professional, who installed a radon fan and sealed cracks in their home. As a result, their readings are now down below 20.
The work cost about $2,000, but she said it was worth it for the peace of mind it brings. And, while her home required full mitigation, not everyone will have the same issues.
“You might just need to seal some cracks in your basement or seal your sump pump, or do things like that and that can bring it down to a great number,” she said. “It totally depends on what you need and the size of your house.”
According to Hamilton public health, because radon can be found across Hamilton, any home could have a radon problem — including new, well-insulated homes, old drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon enters the home from the ground, and the highest radon concentrations are found below the second floor. But the only way to know if your home is safe is to test your home for radon.
Hall said once she discovered their high radon levels she email blitzed friends, family and neighbours to get tested and she now knows eight people across Ontario whose homes have tested high.
“I honestly think our country needs to do a better job of a PSA sort of awareness campaign because all Canadian homes have radon,” she said. “Most people don’t even know about it — it’s just so little known, it’s terrible.”
Hamilton public health said in a statement they take the issue of radon “very seriously” and continue to promote radon testing to Hamilton homeowners and through a media awareness campaign.
But overall, Hall said her biggest take-away from the experience is the lack of awareness about the issue.
“It’s just so important to get tested — I had no idea,” she said. “From what I’ve read in Canada, it should be as standard as a carbon monoxide detector.”
— with files from The Hamilton Spectator.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After testing her home for radon and finding levels close to 13 times higher than the World Health Organization recommends, Carlisle’s Geri Hall reached out to the Review in an attempt to get more Flamborough residents to test their homes.