Radon Test Results Vary

Environment and Labour (to April 1/08)

April 12, 2007 2:55 PM

The first round of testing for radon gas in public buildings, part of a three- to five-year program outlined in February, found results that varied widely but were within expectations.

In recent weeks, 581 tests were conducted across the province. Fifty-two results exceeded the proposed national guidelines.

Pat Wall, chair of the interdepartmental advisory group on radon, said that the tests were conducted as part of the province's proactive approach to radon management.

"We looked at a sample of public housing, hospitals and schools, based on the surrounding geology," Mr. Wall said. "We found most sites below the proposed new national guideline, and a few that were high enough to require re-testing."

"We are also looking into an anomaly in an office at a school where readings ranged from below the proposed national guideline to unusually high in the same day."

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive soil gas that increases the risk of lung cancer when people are exposed to high levels over a lifetime. It does not pose an immediate health risk.

Radon typically seeps into buildings through cracks and openings in foundations.

Nova Scotia began a program of testing all public buildings in February in anticipation of a new national guideline.

About 300 rooms were tested at 11 schools; 18 rooms had levels above the proposed national guideline of 200 becquerels per cubic metre.

The 18 rooms will be re-tested when the fall heating season begins, as required by the testing protocol.

An administrative office at Atlantic Memorial Consolidated School, in Whites Lake, had radon levels that ranged widely depending on activity at the building, with lower levels during working hours.

The room has been closed while the source of the radon is located and sealed off.

Ten nearby rooms were above 200 Bq/m3 and will be retested in the fall.

Dr. Robert Strang, deputy medical officer of health, said students and staff are not at risk for short or long-term health concerns, but the varying results emphasize the need for Nova Scotians to test their homes.

"If results can vary from room to room in a school, then you clearly cannot make assumptions about your home, and that's where the potential for long-term exposure is greatest," Dr. Strang said.

The three hospitals that were tested -- Buchanan Memorial in Neils Harbour, Sacred Heart Hospital in Cheticamp, and Victoria County in Baddeck -- were all below 200 Bq/m3.

Thirty-four of 191 units administered by the Department of Community Services tested above proposed national guideline. In accordance with the testing protocol, eight will be retested immediately and 26 in the fall.

The results are available online at www.gov.ns.ca/enla/airlandwater/radon.asp .


     The province has completed the first round of testing for

radon gas in public buildings and, as expected, results were

varied. 581 tests were conducted across the province, and only 52

showed levels that exceeded a proposed national guideline.

     The tests are part of a proactive radon gas management

program that will take three to five years to complete.

     Radon is a naturally occuring soil gas that does not pose an

immediate health risk but can increase the risk of lung cancer if

people are exposed to high levels over a lifetime.

     The provincial government recommends that Nova Scotians test

their homes for radon.


Media Contacts: Bill Turpin
                Environment and Labour
                E-mail: turpinsw@gov.ns.ca

                Kevin Finch
                Department of Education
                E-mail: finchkh@gov.ns.ca

                Karen White
                Community Services
                E-mail: whitekl@gov.ns.ca

                Sherri Aikenhead
                Department of Health
                E-mail: aikenhsl@gov.ns.ca

                Bretton Loney
                Health Protection and Promotion
                E-mail: loneybm@gov.ns.ca