Free kits test for potentially harmful gas in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Canadian Cancer Society distributing free radon test kits to residents.

An organization is trying to determine if there are high levels of a potentially harmful gas in Nanaimo.

The Canadian Cancer Society is undertaking a project to determine the levels of radon on Vancouver Island, with Nanaimo as one of the focus cities.As a result, the society is providing free radon test kits to residents who wish to test radon levels in their own homes.

Christina McLean, health promotion coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society, said the aim of the project is to determine where, if any, high levels of radon exist in Nanaimo and whether more public education about radon needs to be conducted.

“It’s not known that there are high levels in Nanaimo, there are geological deposits that demonstrate potential for high levels on the Island, but there has been limited residential testing completed,” she said. “Our project is seeking to identify radon levels to determine if there is a need for greater testing or community education.”Radon is generally caused by the break down of uranium in rocks and soil. It’s a colourless and tasteless gas that can cause health issues, such as lung cancer, to individuals who exposed to high levels of it over time.“It’s essentially an invisible gas. There is no way to know if you are being exposed unless you test for it. That’s why it is important and we do recommend testing,” McLean said.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada and each year more than 3,000 Canadians die as result of high exposure to radon.

“It can any enter a home at any point where the home is in contact with the ground,” McLean said.

Health Canada recommends that radon levels below 200 becquerels per cubic metre according to McLean, who said radon does not discriminate based on geographical location.

“Radon is so random,” she said. “Two homes that are side by side can have different levels. It is quite random.”

McLean said the free test kits are roughly the size of a “hockey” puck and are completely harmless to humans.

“It [the kit] just sits undisturbed in a room in your home for three months,” she said. “It should not be a disturbance in the home and it is completely safe and there are no adverse health risks to having the kit.”

Those interested in receiving a free radon kit must ask for one by e-mailing radon.nanaimo@bc.cancer.ca.