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Radon- an invisible threat

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During November there has been lots of media coverage on lung cancer. Did you know that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada and the leading cause in non-smokers? Health Canada estimates that about 16% of lung cancer deaths in Canada are linked to radon – that’s about 3300 deaths each year.

November is Radon Action Month in Canada, marking a chance for us to raise awareness and to take action on radon. Radon is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that naturally comes from the soil. It becomes a problem when it accumulates in enclosed spaces, like your home or workplace, since it’s a known risk factor for cancer.
The good news is that there are things than can be done to lower your exposure to radon. For your home, you can test radon levels using a do-it-yourself kit or you can hire a professional to test for you. If radon levels are high (Health Canada’s recommended limit is 200 Bcq/m3), you should fix your home by hiring a professional. But there’s no safe level of radon, meaning that even low levels of radon exposure can increase your risk of lung cancer.


There are also public policies that can protect people from radon. This might mean changing building codes to ensure that new buildings prevent radon entry, making sure public buildings don’t have high levels of radon or supporting homeowners who want to remediate their home. 
Unfortunately, many Canadians and policymakers don’t know about radon and those who do aren’t necessarily taking action. A 2013 survey of Canadian households found that less than half of respondents were aware of radon and out of those who were, a mere 5% had ever tested their homes.
The Canadian Cancer Society is hoping to change that. We’re working in our National, provincial and community offices to raise awareness about this deadly gas. In some regions, we’re also working to encourage public policies that will protect Canadians from radon.   
We are primed to make a difference when it comes to radon control. Not only do we have the science to definitely link it to cancer (a harder feat than one may initially think), we also have ways for people to do something about it, and public policy options that can protect us. This November, take action on radon: spread the word, test and remediate your home and support public policy changes to control radon.
You can get more information about radon on our website here.
If you live in Ontario, you can also support Bill 11, a proposed bill on radon prevention and awareness. You can take action on radon by sending a letter to your MPP here.
We want to know how much our community members know about radon. Did you know what radon was before reading this article? Now that you have, are you likely to test your home for it? Why or why not? If you have tested your home, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

Chen J, Moir D, Whyte J. (2012). Canadian population risk of radon induced lung cancer: a re-assessment based on the recent cross-Canada radon survey. Radiat Prot Dosimetry, 152: 9-13
Statistics Canada. Table  153-0098 -  Households and the environment survey, knowledge of radon and testing, Canada and provinces, every 2 years (percent),  CANSIM (database). (accessed: 2014-09-23) 


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