Greener homes need to address Canada's 'shockingly high' levels of indoor radioactive radon"
The BC Lung Association’s Director for Healthy Indoor Environments, Dr. Noah Quastel, is urging caution with the new Canada Greener Homes Program in the light of growing evidence it could exacerbate risks from radon radiation.
Radon is an odourless and colourless radioactive gas that naturally occurs in soils and can often seep into buildings. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
“The BC Lung Association and its co-signatories in an open letter (click here to download letter) applaud Natural Resources Canada’s new Greener Homes Grant program as an important measure for addressing climate change and improving home energy efficiency, but we strongly urge new program leaders to consider a significant health consequence,” commented Dr. Quastel.
“While measures taken to improve home energy efficiency have benefits, solid evidence confirms they can inadvertently worsen another pressing national problem— indoor radon exposure and related lung cancer risk. Even simple changes such as upgrading windows or sealing doors can lead to higher levels of indoor radon,” said Quastel.
“Research is showing newer homes have more radon in them,” Quastel added. “We know that energy efficiency makes homes ‘tighter’, which makes it harder for radon to escape.
“Climate action is so important, but the last thing we want is for home improvements to increase lung cancer rates. Climate smart homes need to also be safe. Fortunately, there are good building practices that can twin these two goals,” he continued.
“It’s vital that radon levels are tested in any new homes, and after any energy efficiency improvements that change air flow or heating and air conditioning systems.
“Radon mitigation, if radon testing shows home levels are over Canada’s Radon Guideline of 200 Bq/m3, should be central to any greener home grants,” said Quastel.
Canada's Greener Home Program needs to be seen in light of new research from the National Evict Radon Study showing alarming radon levels in Canada.
Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure Disease, co-author of the research stated, “Canadians all over the country, not just the Prairie provinces, are exposed to some of the highest residential radon levels on our planet.”
Goodarzi pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) uses a more stringent safety standard of 100Bq/m3 and that 50 percent of the 30,000 homes tested in the Evict Radon National Study were over the WHO safety limit.
“This disproportionately affects younger Canadians who tend to buy newer affordable homes in newer communities,” continued Goodarzi. “Without action, over the next few decades this country is likely to face an unprecedented increase in new radon-induced lung cancer diagnosis among those who are in the ‘prime of their life’.
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