With the continuous reporting of COVID-19 cases spiking in B.C. throughout November, the month almost slipped by without mention of another silent potential killer, one that will never go away.
And that is radon gas.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the ground and is found in all homes. It has no colour, smell or odour.
At low levels, it does not pose a significant health risk. However, radon gas can build up over time, and prolonged exposure to elevated levels can cause lung cancer.
National Radon Action Month
Many Canadians are unaware of the health risks of radon gas. Exposure to radon is, in fact, the leading cause of cancer in non-smokers.
Health Canada reports that sadly, exposure to this gas kills more than 3,200 Canadians each year.
So every November the Government of Canada observes National Radon Action Month in tandem with Lung Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of this oft overlooked health risk and to remind Canadians that both lifestyle choices and environmental factors can affect lung health.
Fortunately, radon can be detected using a simple and inexpensive test, which is available online, at select local retailers, through community health organizations, or from a certified radon professional.
Residents in Trail, however, have a no-cost resource available to conduct radon screening in their homes.
All that’s required is a library card for the Trail and District Public Library, located in the Riverfront Centre.
The library has two loaner kits as part of the Radon Screening Library Lending Program through the BC Lung Association.
The kits contains: one “AIRTHINGS” digital radon detector, an instruction booklet and information brochures on radon gas.
With COVID restrictions presently amped up, anyone interested in checking out a radon screening kit should call the library first.
In most homes, high levels of radon can be reduced by more than 80 per cent for the same cost as replacing a furnace or air conditioner. A radon mitigation professional who has been certified under the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) can help find the best way to reduce the radon level in homes.
Read more: Radon remediation for SD20
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
In Canada, lung cancer has a devastating impact on individuals and their families.
Lung cancer is one of the four types that make up close to 50 per cent of all cancer cases diagnosed in Canada, along with colorectal, breast and prostate cancers.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to learn more about the signs and symptoms of this disease, and to take action to prevent it.
Symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage. Signs may include problems breathing, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or a persistent, worsening cough, chest pain (especially when breathing deeply or coughing), coughing up blood, frequent or persistent chest infections, fatigue and unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite.
Although many of these symptoms could be caused by something other than lung cancer, a health professional should be consulted for anyone experiencing any of them consistently, or if they won’t go away.
In addition, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends that adults 55-74 years of age with a 30 pack per year smoking history, be screened for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography.
Preventing Lung Cancer
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, advises all Canadians to protect themselves from lung cancer. “There are many things you can do to lower your risk of lung cancer,” says Dr. Tam. “The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke. For those who do smoke, quitting can decrease their risk of lung cancer. Second-hand smoke is also a significant risk factor. Smokers should avoid smoking indoors or in enclosed spaces, and non-smokers should avoid areas where people are smoking.”
Finally, test the radon level in your home; if it’s high, reduce it.
Visit Health Canada’s website for more information on lung cancer and radon gas.