By Charles Dickson
Uranium deposits in the Pontiac may be of too low a grade to be worth mining, at least at current market prices. But that doesn’t stop one of its by-products, radon gas, from seeping out of the ground.
Anywhere you find uranium, you are almost certain to find radon. Long-term exposure to high levels of radon can significantly increase the risk of getting lung cancer.
Last week, the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment along with Health Canada, the Canadian Lung Association, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, among others, launched a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness of the health concerns surrounding radon.
A study conducted by Health Canada in 2009-2011 found that some 90 per cent of homes across Canada are estimated to have acceptable levels of radon – falling below the guideline of 200 Becquerels (a measure of radioactive decay) per cubic meter of air (Bq/m3). In other words, about 10 per cent of Canadian homes are likely to have radon concentrations above the acceptable level.
Levels vary from region to region and are usually higher in areas with more uranium in the underlying rock and soil. One in ten homes in Quebec is estimated to have elevated levels of radon. In some provinces, up to one in five homes has too much radon. The gas can move into your home through cracks in the walls or the floor of your foundation, or through gaps around service pipes, window casements, floor drains, sumps, and other openings. But because radon is invisible and odourless, you can’t see it or smell it.
Testing for radon is fairly easily done with a test kit that can be purchased at some hardware stores. The test involves placing the radon measurement device on a surface in the lowest lived-in level of your home, leaving it in place for a minimum of three months, then mailing it to a lab for analysis.
If the test shows you have high radon levels in your home, sealing up the cracks in your basement or improving your home’s ventilation may be enough to reduce levels.
Years ago, smoke detectors were a new thing; now they’re required. Will this be the case for radon detectors? Meanwhile, the Pontiac Health and Social Services Centre (CSSS) is taking a leadership role with its commitment to conduct an evaluation of radon at the hospital in Shawville. Parts of the Pontiac are known to contain uranium, and the Pontiac has one of the highest levels of smoking in Quebec. And we all care about the health and well being of our kids and the people we work with. It might not be a bad idea for each of us to consider running a radon test in our home and workplace.
Charles Dickson is publisher of the Shawville Equity.