Radon on radar of Calgary cancer researchers
The public can purchase Radon testing kits at hardware stores or the Lung Association.
Colleen Schmidt, CTV Calgary
Published Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:04PM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:10PM MST
A potentially deadly gas that lurks in the homes of many Canadians is the focus of a new study.
Cancer researchers and clinicians are testing their own homes for radon this month in an effort to bring awareness to the cancer-causing radioactive gas.
In 2013, 25,528 Canadians were diagnosed with lung cancer and even though smoking still remains the primary cause of lung cancer, researchers say between 1,000 and 4,000 new Canadian lung cancer cases each year are thought to be due to radon.
“Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer,” said Amy Elefson, Program Specialist for Environment and Health with The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT.
Radon is a naturally occurring, colourless and odourless gas that seeps out of the earth's crust.
The idea to have Calgary cancer doctors study their own homes was initiated by University of Calgary researcher, Aaron Goodarzi.
“Radon gas is a significant public health concern for the Prairie provinces, in particular, but one which is largely invisible to the public eye. Without question, if you live in a home with high radon, your lungs are being exposed to DNA-mutating radiation which can cause lung cancer even in people who have never smoked a day in their lives,” said Goodarzi.
A recent Health Canada survey showed between four and 44 percent of Canadian homes have levels well above the minimum safe guidelines, depending on the region, and the highest levels were found in the Prairies and Maritimes.
The goal of the study is to help researchers understand and eradicate radon-induced cancer in Alberta.
More than 40 cancer researchers and doctors are signed up for the project and participants will be issued special test kits which will be paid for out of their own pockets.
Researchers say winter is the best time to test for radon as homes have limited ventilation because they are sealed against the cold and because occupants spend the most time indoors at this time of year.
“High radon gas levels in the home is a correctable problem, and any homes found to have unacceptably high levels of radon gas can be returned to non-hazardous levels relatively easily,” says Dr. Goodarzi.
The testing will take about a month and Goodarzi hopes to use the data to secure funding for a larger-scale study.