Advocates urge Sask. residents to test their homes for radon
SASKATOON -- You can't smell it, taste it, or see it, but radon is everywhere in Saskatchewan according to the Lung Association.
However, everyone can take steps to ensure they’re not exposed to deadly levels of the gas.
"It's under our houses and it can seep into your house quite easily," said Kerri Tucker, a Realtor in Saskatoon, and a recent advocate for radon safety in Saskatchewan.
Earlier this year Tucker had a bout with pneumonia, but she couldn't kick it. After a series of visits to the doctor, she was told it's likely something serious. It turned out to be lung cancer, but Tucker wasn't a smoker.
"Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer but radon exposure is the number two leading cause of lung cancer and it's the number one reason non-smokers will develop cancer," she said.
The diagnosis came as a shock, but Tucker's curiosity about radon propelled her to read more on the topic and that's when she realized every home in Saskatchewan is at risk of high levels of radon exposure.
"Radon is in the ground, it a by-product of uranium in the soil, so it's under our houses and it can seep into your house quite easily," Tucker said. "It's very low levels that are actually tolerable or considered safe so any amount of radon is considered unsafe in your home."
Tucker and her colleague Tarra Unterschute started recording videos and sharing them online, raising awareness about radon exposure, urging people to purchase radon-testing kits.
"The first and most important thing is to test your home," she said. ‘You can get your kit from the Lung Association or tackleradon.org and just know what your levels are."
Jennifer May, acting president of the Lung Association in Saskatoon, said radon test kits are as important as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
"It's the trifecta of protecting your home," May said.
The Lung Association has partnered with the Saskatchewan Research Council and it is selling radon testing kits for $65. While retailers may offer a sweeter deal for these kits, May said, the kit from the research council is designed to capture radon levels over a three-month period, the minimum timeframe for a proper assessment.
"Most people in Saskatchewan are going to have radon in their homes, we need to understand that, but what you need to know is your number," May said. "You can't smell it, you can't taste it you can't see it, the only way to know is to purchase a kit like this and test your home."
She added it doesn't matter if it's a new or and old home, radon levels are unique to each home and the uranium levels in the soil. Research shows Saskatchewan and Alberta have the highest concentrations of uranium in soil in the world, second to only Poland.
Unlike carbon monoxide poisoning, May said radon exposure happens slowly and over a long-period of time, but knowing your radon level is key to mitigation.
"Because we live in Saskatchewan and it's a hot spot for radon we're going to be exposed to radon in our workplace, our daycares, schools and our homes and so it's important we test all of those zones," May said.