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Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is released during the naturally-occurring, radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soils. Radon levels outdoors are generally low; however, radon can enter buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation and levels can become much higher indoors, especially in basements and lower floors. Exposure to radon over time increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Health Canada estimates that over 3,200 Canadians die each year due to radon gas exposure (Chen et al., 2012). Smoking places people at higher risk from radon exposure, increasing the odds of developing lung cancer from 1 in 20 to 1 in 3 (Health Canada, 2010).
Radon levels are influenced by such factors as:
- geography (which determines the amount of uranium and radon in soil)
- household construction methods and architectural design
- natural ventilation and ventilation systems, and
- the specific materials used to build a home
Because of these multiple inter-related factors, it is impossible to predict levels of radon without measuring them. Health Canada recommends that all Canadians have their homes tested for radon (Health Canada, 2013). The Government of Canada’s recommended guideline for homes and public spaces including schools, daycare and libraries, is 200 becquerels per meters cubed (Bq/m3) (Government of Canada, 2009) whereas the World Health Organization recommends 100 Bq/m3 (WHO, 2016).
If a building exceeds the federal guideline, Health Canada recommends that measures be taken to reduce those levels. Radon mitigation systems installed by certified professionals are very effective at reducing radon levels even when results far exceed the recommended guideline. A list of certified professionals is available at the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program.
- Radon: Public Health and Cancer Prevention (NCCEH, 2019)
This short animated video outlines steps that public health professionals can take to reduce radon gas exposure.
- Experiences with BC First Nations community-based radon testing: Successes and lessons learned (Neathway et al, 2018)
This article, published in Environmental Health Review, describes a multi-year home radon testing program in First Nations communities in British Columbia. The article outlines key elements, such as developing local champions and clearly identifying funding issues that led to a very high rate of homes being tested and mitigated.
- Inuit and Metis radon research across the country (NCCEH, 2018)
Two presentations provide an historical overview of radon testing conducted in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities across Canada. Resources uncovered include a 1993 federal testing program of homes as well as a more recent federal program that included testing in administration buildings, schools and other public spaces in first nations communities.
- Radon and child care facilities (NCCEH, 2017)
This presentation was made at the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors National Annual Education conference by NCCEH staff in conjunction with an environmental health officer from the British Columbia Interior Health Authority.
- Call for action on radon in childcare settings (Phipps et al, 2017)
This article from Environmental Health Review is co-authored by NCCEH staff and outlines the rationale for implementing regulations to govern the testing of radon in child-care settings across Canada.
- Public health ethics: A case for environmental health (NCCHPP, 2016)
The National Collaborating Centre for Health Public Policy, in conjunction with the NCCEH and the INSPQ, hosted a webinar to discuss the ethical dimensions involved in testing for radon in childcare facilities.
- Radon: Public health professionals can make a difference (Nicol et al, 2015)
This NCCEH article published in the Environmental Health Review is aimed at providing information on radon risks and mitigation to public health inspectors.
- Radon and lung cancer (NCCEH, 2015)
Invited presentations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (HESA) by NCCEH staff regarding radon and the risk of lung cancer.
Other Selected Resources
- Ontario Public Health Radon Initiatives (2019)
Radon testing and outreach is occurring in many Public Health Units in Ontario. These innovative programs have increased the number of people testing their homes in this province. Some examples of these programs and their findings can be viewed at:
- Take Action on Radon (2019)
This Health Canada funded program provides quick links to information and resources for radon testing and mitigation across the country. Take Action on Radon offers the “100 Test Kit Challenge” program which supports community access to free radon test kits as well as education and outreach.
- Radon: Quick summary (CAREX Canada, 2019)
This webpage includes resources on evidence, policies and guidelines pertaining to environmental and occupational radon exposure in Canada. It also links to summaries on radon testing initiatives in schools across the country.
- Reducing the risk from radon: A guide for health care providers (Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, 2018)
This guide, developed in conjunction with the US EPA, is targeted to health care providers. This guide was designed to help health care providers inform patients about exposures to radon. This guide has the latest information on the science behind the risk estimates, sample guidance for use in health care settings and the role of health care providers in reducing the burden of radon.
- Environmental Scan of Radon Law and Policy: Best Practices in Canada and the European Union (Canadian Environmental Law Association, 2018).
This report is an analysis of existing radon policy initiatives at the domestic and international level. Recommendations are made to strengthen specific regulations to reduce radon exposure.
- Radon - online course for physicians (McMaster University, 2017)
This Continuing Medical Education (CME) course for physicians is offered through McMaster University. This program is designed to help answer patient's questions about the health risks of radon and the need to test their home and reduce their family’s exposure.
- Guide for radon measurements in public buildings and Radon reduction guide for Canadians (Health Canada, 2014 and 2016)
These practical guides, developed by Health Canada, include topics such as how to test homes, buildings, schools, daycares, correctional facilities and hospitals. The guides include important information on hiring certified professional testers or mitigators.
- Radiation-Internalized a-particle Emitting Radionuclides. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 100D (2012).
This IARC review provides an update to the evidence base linking occupational and environmental radon exposure to cancer.
- A citizen’s guide to radon: A guide to protecting yourself and your family (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2016)
A lay language guide, developed by the US EPA and Centres for Disease Control, about radon that is targeted to community members.
- Environmental burden of cancer in Ontario (Public Health Ontario, 2017)
This useful report estimates that radon contributes to between 1,080 to 1,550 new cases of cancer every year in Ontario alone. For more information and an explanation of how this estimate was calculated, see the report and its technical supplement.
- A comparative study of radon levels in Federal buildings and residential homes in Canada (Whyte et al, 2019)
This study provides information about the Canadian government’s radon testing program in federal workplaces. The results are compared to residential radon results from other federal research initiatives.
- Canadian population risk of radon induced lung cancer: a re-assessment based on the recent cross-Canada radon survey (Chen et al., 2012)
This study undertook a re-assessment of Canadian population risk for radon-induced lung cancer, based on a cross-Canada radon survey.
- A cost-effectiveness analysis of interventions to reduce residential radon exposure in Canada. (Gaskin et al. 2019)
This analysis highlights where efforts to reduce radon are most cost-effective and concludes that it is practical to reduce indoor radon and prevent lung cancer in Canada.
- A geospatial approach to the prediction of indoor radon vulnerability in British Columbia, Canada. (Branion-Calles et al 2016).
This paper presents a method useful for generating more accurate radon maps.
- Implementation of a radon measurement protocol and its communication plan by child care centre managers in Quebec. (Gagnon et al. 2016)
This intervention study demonstrates that child care centre managers can test for radon in a cost-effective manner.
- Canadian individual risks of radon-induced lung cancer for different exposure profiles (Chen, 2005)
This paper explains how to calculate radon risk for specific exposure scenarios and provides Canadian specific estimates using Canadian age-specific mortality rates and smoking prevalence data.
- Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies (Darby et al., 2005)
This analysis of data from 13 case-control studies of residential radon and lung cancer shows appreciable hazards from residential radon, particularly for smokers and recent ex-smokers.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.
|Last updated||Nov 20, 2019|