Is radon gas putting you or your family at risk of lung cancer?
That's the question Dana Schmidt is trying to get all Castlegar residents to ask, as he continues to promote radon-gas testing in this, the second-worst radon hot-spot in the province.
Schmidt told city council, at its regular meeting Monday night, that he has distributed more than 450 radon-gas detectors in the past year, of which 280 have been returned. The detectors, which he provides free-of-charge, measure radon levels over the course of 90 to 120 days, and the results to date will likely be startling to some.
“In more than 20 to 25 of the detectors returned, the values were so high the detectors couldn't get an accurate reading,” he said. “They're the kinds of values associated with working in unranium mines.”
He said roughly 83 per cent of Castlegar homes are above the level at which the US Environmental Protection Agency says to, “consider action”, and 48 per cent have radon levels above the Canadian standard of 200Bq/m3.
Schmidt called on council to alter new building construction requirements to include radon venting, which he said would cost about $500 per home, while retro-fitting would take a couple of days and cost about $2,500 through a contractor.
Either way, he said, it's a quick, easy fix – especially when you understand the consequences of not bothering.
“It became apparent to me, after the death of my wife (of radon-related lung cancer), that Castlegar has a significant radon problem,” he said, adding radon gas is second only to smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer. “It's more deadly than not fastening your seatbelts, and more people will die (of radon-related lung cancer) than of breast cancer.
“I don't think people realize how serious the risk really is.”
He said you can't see or smell radon gas, and there's no way to gauge by neighborhood or house-age whether you're at higher risk, but radon levels are easy to measure with the detectors Schmidt is loaning out for free through either City Hall or Golder Associates here in town.
He said he hopes to secure funding to help those unable to pay for retro-fitting – and in the interim, he hopes to see council regulate new construction such that retrofits ultimately become unneccessary, as has alreay been done in hot-spot communities in the US state of Washington.
Council unanimously referred the recommendation to the city planning and development department for evaluation.
For more information or to get a radon detector for your own home, call Schmidt at 250-365-0344 or City Hall at 250-365-7227, or email firstname.lastname@example.org