The Canadian Cancer Society is working to raise awareness of a gas called radon.
Tami Thiessen, Southern Regional Representative for the Canadian Cancer Society, says this gas is a problem for Manitobans.
"Radon gas is a naturally occurring gas. For some reason, Southern Manitoba has a lot of uranium in the soil, and what happens is as the uranium decays, it produces radon gas. That gas is under our homes and under our businesses and because it's a gas it'll find any crack or any hole to come through into your house. I actually have a good friend who passed away this year of lung cancer, and we had previously tested his home and his workplace and both were high in radon. So the assumption is that it was from radon."
Thiessen notes smoking, along with exposure to radon will greatly increase one's risk of cancer.
"You would think it might be double, smoking and radon, but it actually multiplies it by eight."
A person cannot see, smell, or taste the gas, so the only way to know the radon level in your home is through testing. Health Canada recommends the average annual level of radon in a normal living area should not be greater than 200 Bq/m3 but Thiessen adds she's seen some scary readings. "I have tested homes that have been almost 3,000 (Bq/m3)."
It is estimated about 7 percent of Canadians and about 19 percent of Manitobans are living in homes above the guideline.
"There have been homes that are brand new homes that are testing high in radon," says Thiessen, noting radon levels depend on multiple factors. "Obviously one is how much uranium is in the soil directly under your house. The other factor is, 'how do you use your house? Are you in and out all day long? Do you have windows open all the time? Do you have an uncovered drain or sump pump?'"
Thiessen says testing should be done on the lowest level of your home, where people spend about 4 hours or more per day. Since radon gas varies throughout the seasons, it's recommended to test for a year in order to get an average.
"If you're a little more anxious and don't want to wait a year, then we say 3 months."
If radon levels in your home are high, a radon mitigator will likely test for the highest point of radon in the home and recommend installing a depressurization system to expel the gas. Thiessen notes radon is diluted quickly with air once outside.
Radon test kits can be purchased for $30 by contacting Thiessen at 204-822-6870 or [email protected] For more information on radon visit the Government of Manitoba website.