November is Radon Awareness Month, highlighting the importance of finding and eliminating radon hotspots.
Radon gas is almost completely undetectable to the human senses, as it is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. It seeps out of the soil from uranium deposits breaking down. The radioactive particles are more dangerous in winter, as homes and buildings keep shut, allowing the toxins to collect and permeate.
Dr. David Torr is the area department lead for public health and preventative medicine with the SHA.
“Saskatchewan is extremely rich in uranium under the ground, and one of the breakdown products of uranium is a radioactive gas called radon that seeps up from the ground,” Torr explained. “In winter we close up our houses, and then the gas is coming into our houses and accumulating, and unfortunately, radon is something we breathe in. It's the largest contributor to lung cancer for non-smokers and the second largest contributor to lung cancer.”
Diagnosis for lung cancer can be early or late, often showing up in X-rays for other purposes, but it may also be left until the afflicted coughs up blood. Dr.Torr emphasizes that prevention and early detection are much better alternatives.
"Before COVID we did a research project,” Torr stated. “We did testing in the whole region and we came up with the results that around 50% of households that were tested, actually did have high levels of radon that required mitigation. People were getting exposed to higher than what we call acceptable levels of radon, and this is being observed in other parts of the province as well.”
Torr suggests every resident of the southwest to consider testing for radon and doing their own research on the deadly gas. When testing a house for radon, residents may purchase a do-it-yourself radon test kit or hire a radon measurement professional. More information on radon can be found on the Government of Canada and Ministry of Health websites.