By Chris Drost
In response to the Haliburton Echo article, Radon in the home is major health risk published on March 4, the Echo heard from the regional director of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST) with concerns about how a quote within the article could potentially mislead the public.
“First off, I applaud the radon coverage – this is certainly an important health concern that doesn’t get enough press,” said Erin Curry, regional director of CARST and project lead with Take Action on Radon. However, near the end of the article she was concerned that a quote from a municipal representative in Bancroft was in her words, “misleading.”
Curry wanted to clarify that all buildings that are in contact with the soil can have elevated radon levels. This includes buildings that do not have a basement, even if the building is slab-on-grade.
Secondly, she points out that issues are not restricted primarily to older buildings.
“There are many newly constructed homes that have elevated radon levels,” she says.
While Curry will reach out to the individual who was quoted, she says she did not want these comments to give readers a false sense of security when it comes to the risk for radon.
“Every home needs to be tested, it’s as simple as that,” she says.
“We recognize that municipalities are one of the best locations to get information, one that is trusted by residents. It is good if they can do an awareness campaign. We have a program for municipalities,” CARST executive director Pam Warkentin said.
CARST can provide radon test kits at little or no cost. Usually, the first 100 are free and then they can provide them at cost. Municipalities can apply for them through the Take Action on Radon website (takeactiononradon.ca). It usually starts in the fall as this is the best time to start testing for radon. It takes about three months to complete the testing.
“We have been running this program for four years. It includes a report for the municipality after the three months. We have found that when municipalities do a survey we get a lot better response, so we encourage municipalities to do that,” Warkentin said.
“Ours is a turnkey program. We provide the test kits and have a distribution week, a virtual presentation [on how to use it], and a pick-up week after three months when participants can bring in their radon kit so it can be sent in for analysis. They can also mail in the kit. When a municipality gets involved, it gives a community a mindset for the testing, a framework with timelines and a deadline. Each individual gets their one individual report but a community report is also created,” Warkentin said.
Communities that want to apply can find the application through takeactiononradon.ca/resources/100-radon-test-kit-challenge/.
CARST is currently recruiting for communities to participate this fall. Since the March 4 Echo article noted that Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District had not been able to secure free test kits previously, Warkentin says that they have reached out to them to see if they would like to participate.
Once radon is detected in a building, it needs to be addressed.
“One of the unique things about Ontario is the municipalities can change their building code if they find high levels of radon in their community,” Warkentin said.
Kingston for example, has changed its building code and has made the decision to test for radon in all its childcare centres and in all their public buildings. A list of the communities who have changed their building codes can be found at carst.ca/carstblog/7685273.
CARST is also pursuing radon mitigation renovation grants for fixing problems with radon. Some municipalities offer such grants for low income and vulnerable populations.
For those planning to build a new home, there is information available for home builders by visiting carst.ca/New-Residential-Construction. For more information about the report CARST has issued from the first three years of the 100 Radon Test Kit Challenge, visit takeactiononradon.ca/take-action-on-radon-preliminary-data-report-november-2021.