Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is testing schools in the Sea to Sky to keep children and youth safe from radon gas.
“Radon levels across the VCH region are typically low in comparison to the rest of the province. In the past in our Coastal region though, a small percentage of homes tested above the guideline levels,” says Dr. James Lu, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health.
“In doing this testing now we want to confirm that levels in schools are low, as a part of our ongoing commitment to the health and safety of students and staff. At the same time, we’re hoping to encourage people to take action and test their homes.”
The detectors will be placed in classrooms and will not impact school activities. After three months the detectors will be analyzed at a lab and results will be given to the school districts and parents.
Radon is a colourless, odourless, and radioactive gas formed by the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. The gas enters buildings through cracks and openings in floors and foundation walls.
Radon can accumulate in enclosed spaces, such as within buildings. Long-term exposure to elevated levels can cause lung cancer. It is estimated that 16 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada are related to radon exposure.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second leading cause in smokers.
Anne-Marie Nicol, a SFU researcher, is also inviting home owners in Squamish for a project to test radon in local homes. Test kits are still available but the window to test is closing.
“It takes 91 days to test for radon and closed homes are best to determine average levels. Once the summer comes, people tend to leave windows open,” she said.
Nicol said Squamish, as well as the North Shore are indicated a having potentially higher levels of radon, due to the geology of the underlying rock.
“One of the main issues for me is that there are building codes in the Interior region of BC which compel builders to build in a radon reduction system. We don’t have the building codes here though, even those part of Vancouver and the Sea to Sky look geologically very similar to those regions in the interior,” she said.