According to a Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health study, over half of the homes tested in KFL&A have radon levels above World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, leaving residents at risk of lung cancer.
The report cited radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer, and stated that “a person with long-term exposure to high levels of radon has a 1 in 20 lung cancer risk, while a smoker who is also exposed to long-term high levels of radon has a 1 in 3 risk.”
Due to the severity of the health risks of radon exposure, KFL&A Public Health recommends community members test for radon. Those with homes that have high levels of radon are strongly advised to consult a certified mitigation specialist to lower radon levels.
Health Canada estimates the average cost of radon remediation at $1,500 to $3,000, but costs vary and can exceed those estimates exponentially.
According to KFL&A Public Health Promoter Erin Hayes, this cost can be a significant barrier to access radon remediation. The home builders warranty covers the cost of mitigation systems for any home less than seven years old, but there are currently no other programs, grants, or financial assistance available for homeowners who can’t afford to have their home remediated.
Those who rent their homes are particularly vulnerable, Hayes explained. There is no legal obligation for landlords to conduct radon tests or mitigate their properties to protect tenants from the effects of radon.
“Tenants are more susceptible because they’re more likely to be living in basements of homes which generally have higher levels of radon,” said Hayes. “It varies, potentially up to 10 per cent, from the basement to the ground floor.”
Hayes said that landlords who have declined tenant requests for radon remediation have been taken to court, but radon remediation isn’t required by law.
“It’s been argued as a health risk the same asbestos and mold,” Hayes explained. “But there’s no precedent set.”
KFL&A Public health’s efforts to respond to study results include advocating and educating the community about the prevalence of the issue.
“Part of what we’re doing is going to the federal government to do tax incentives or tax breaks so that anyone who does mitigate is able to receive a tax incentive for making their home more energy efficient and safer,” said Hayes. “Kind of the same as energy efficiency tax incentives that are there right now.”
Hayes said that KFL&A Public health encouraged citizens to talk to their MPs and MPPs about the issue, and that many municipalities are working towards building code changes that would require all new homes to have rough-ins for radon mitigation systems.
Please see our original article on the KFL&A Public Health study on radon levels in Kingston homes here for a link to resources regarding radon remediation.