Public health spends a great deal of time working towards healthy communities and protecting us from the occasional blunder like cigarettes.
But, when Mother Nature takes over, it’s a different ball game.
When people got lung disease from cigarettes, health agencies limited tobacco smoke exposure and created stop smoking classes.
However, when Mother Nature is involved, she occasionally throws public health a curveball. The latest pitch is radon gas.
Radon is a radioactive gas that happens naturally when uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is not a concern. However, in homes it can sometimes build up to high levels, which can be a health risk to you and your family.
Exposure to high levels of radon gas indoors results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Science links the carcinogen to about 3,200 lung cancer deaths a year in Canada.
Radon accounts for 10-15% of lung cancer cases in North America, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.
Testing is the only way to determine if a problem exists. Heath Canada recommends a long-term testing for radon for a minimum of three months, ideally between October and April. Various companies can test for radon, but do-it yourself kits can also be purchased from a number of retail stores.
The good news is that your home can be retrofitted for radon removal and other prevention methods.
New buildings will be built, and radon gas will continue. But with a little effort from everyone, harmful exposure can be prevented to shield you and your family from threats Mother Nature throws your way.
For more information visit the Health Canada Web site at www.healthcanada.gc.ca/radon
Dave McIntosh is public health inspector with the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit.