BC residents now have better maps on radon. The BC Centre for Disease Control has just released a new website and interactive map.
The BC Lung Foundation (BC Lung) regards this as an important new step in the fight against radon.
Radon is an odourless, colourless and radioactive gas that can seep into buildings and accumulate to high levels. Exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, killing over 3,300 Canadians a year. Health Canada has set a Canadian Radon Guideline of 200 Bq/m3.
“Knowing local radon risks is extremely important,” says Dr. Noah Quastel, BC Lung’s Director for Law and Policy, Healthy Indoor Environments.
“People need to ensure spaces in which we work, live and play are safe and knowing where there is a significant radon risk is the first step towards taking further action which we will with this vital new evidence.”
Dr. Quastel said, “Health and safety is enshrined in many laws—from the Residential Tenancy Act, to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. People who sell and buy homes should also know that the BC Financial Services Authority now considers radon to be a latent defect. If you are buying a home (or working as a real estate agent) it makes a big difference if public maps show there is a high likelihood of elevated radon.”
Dr. Anne-Marie Nicol, an Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and scientific advisor to BC Lung, noted “There has been consistent evidence over the past ten years from communities across BC that there are regions with elevated radon. These localized projects show levels far higher than the previous federal government estimates for BC.
“However, the map is only as good as the data that can be fed into it, and in too many parts of BC there is not enough radon testing being done. Many parts of the map are now ‘grey’ meaning there is hardly any data at all. But many health services areas and municipalities have only 25 or 50 tests—far fewer than are needed for a good sample size that gives confidence in the numbers,” continued Dr. Nicol.
Dr. Quastel concluded, “We want people to test for radon, whether homeowners, renters, landlords or employers. But we also want the provincial government and municipalities to start taking radon seriously. We need more communities to be tested, and we need Radon Plans and law and policy that removes elevated radon from our indoor spaces.”