Radon Results For Public Buildings Available

June 24, 2008

Government has completed the second round of radon tests on nearly 600 public buildings in Nova Scotia, as part of a five-year program.

More than 5,000 radon tests were completed by this month in public housing, schools, health-care facilities and provincial buildings.

Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive soil gas.

"The province has been working since 2007 to comply with the new national guideline for radon in indoor air," said Pat Wall, chair of the interdepartmental advisory group on radon. "Building owners and homeowners should test for radon gas and take proactive steps to reduce radon levels where necessary."

Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Public Health Officer, said radon doesn't pose an immediate health risk, but there is an increased risk of lung cancer when exposed to elevated levels over a lifetime.

"The best way for Nova Scotians to protect themselves and their children from elevated radon levels is to test their homes, whether their house is old or new," said Dr. Strang.

The national guideline recommends that radon in the indoor air of buildings and homes not exceed 200 becquerels per cubic metre.

Rooms in 109 buildings exceeded the national guideline. Rooms where radon exceeded the guideline will be re-tested and, depending on the results, appropriate remediation will be done to reduce radon gas. Building owners should remediate within two years if levels are between 200 and 600 becquerels. If the levels are more than 600 becquerels, building owners should remediate within one year.

Radon is a naturally occurring odourless and colourless radioactive soil gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Smokers are at six times greater risk.

The risk of lung cancer increases when people are exposed to high levels over a lifetime. Radon does not pose an immediate health risk. Typically, radon seeps into buildings through cracks and openings in foundations.

Radon concentrations can vary from property to property, even from room to room in large buildings. Testing devices for radon gas, including mail-in laboratory analysis of the unit, can be bought locally or on the Internet for $60 to $100.

A summary of test results are available online at www.gov.ns.ca/nse/airlandwater/radon.asp.