Karen Lukic, Health Promotion Specialist, Environmental Health
January 16, 2020
Radon Gas Initiatives in Windsor-Essex County
Radon is a radioactive gas produced when naturally occurring uranium, found in soil and rock, decays. It can’t be seen, smelled or tasted and is in nearly every home across Canada. According to Health Canada (2014), long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the primary cause for non-smokers. Health Canada has set the Canadian guideline for radon levels in the home at 200 Bequerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).
In a cross-Canada study released by Health Canada in 2012, 13.8% of homes tested in Windsor-Essex County (WEC) had radon levels at or above 200 Bq/m3 (Health Canada, 2012). This number was comparable to results from the 3-year Radon: Know Your Level study conducted by the WECHU’s Environmental Health Department that found 11% of homes tested in Windsor-Essex County (n=2,364) had levels at or above 200 Bq/m3 (WECHU, 2018).
The WECHU coordinates the monitoring and surveillance of environmental exposures of public health significance, such as radon, and provides the public with education and mitigation options. These activities are required in the Health Hazard Response Protocol, 2018 and Healthy Environments and Climate Change Guideline, 2018.
In February 2019, the WECHU Board of Health passed a recommendation resolution that included a number of progressive public health activities to reduce exposures and risks related to radon exposure in our community including advocating for municipal and public policy updates on testing and mitigation systems and increases to provincial requirements related to acceptable radon levels in newly built homes and buildings.
Using results from the Radon: Know Your Level study, the WECHU conducted a radon education and advocacy session with members of the Sun Parlour chapter of the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA). The Sun Parlour chapter membership is comprised of the Chief Building Officials from the City of Windsor, and 8 municipalities in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent County. The session included a presentation on our study findings and the WECHU’s recommendations for action such as:
- Changes to municipal building code to include rough-ins for radon mitigation systems in all new residential builds.
- Radon testing in municipally owned public buildings or buildings with on-site municipal staff.
- Partnering with school boards, licensed child care centres, and public libraries to encourage radon testing.
As a result of this education and advocacy session, the City of Windsor and all municipalities represented in the Sun Parlour chapter unanimously agreed to adopt a radon rough-in requirement for all new residential construction starting January 1, 2020.
All new home builders will have to comply with this requirement in order to receive approval from the municipal building inspector. The WECHU, in partnership with the Sun Parlour Chapter, will design radon information labels for distribution to building contractors. These labels will be attached to the radon rough-in pipe system to inform new homeowners of the existence of the roughed-in system and provide direction to homeowners if action is required.
Residents of WEC continue to receive education about radon and its risks, where to purchase testing kits, as well as information about mitigation options for homes with high radon levels. This information is currently available on the WECHU’s website and reinforced each November in recognition of Radon Action Month through a variety of free and social media methods.
Theresa Marentette, CEO