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3 radon detectors - Image: Health Canada

N.B. Lung pushing for bigger investment in radon testing

By Tara Clow Mar 18, 2024 | 12:59 PM

The organization, NB Lung is hoping there’s something in Tuesday’s budget for radon testing.

President and CEO Melanie Langille says New Brunswick has some of the highest levels in Canada.

“It’s because of the bedrock that our province is made of, so it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just naturally here, but in the testing that we’ve done of homes for the last decade or so, we see that on average one in four houses has an unsafe level of radon.”

Radon comes from uranium-based rock.

Langille adds that lung cancer from radon exposure is preventable.

“What we’re trying to impose on the government is that if we invest in testing and mitigation, fixing the homes that have high levels of radon, we can prevent the downstream costs in our healthcare system.”

A home radon test costs about $60, and the cost to fix a home if it has high levels of radon is on average around $3000. She says that’s a lot less than the cost of treating a lung care patient, which can average around $70,000 a year.

“When you think about the the number of New Brunswickers that we are losing to lung cancer every year and the loss potential in our community it’s just devastating,” Langille adds.

But she is also aware that a lot of homeowners can’t afford the additional expense if it’s found that their home has high levels of radon.

“I would love to see the government have a support program in place for mitigation costs, recognizing that it is out of reach for so many folks. We see in other jurisdictions a couple of different mechanisms, whether it’s a tax credit, or it’s a rebate program, either of those would be satisfactory in my mind. But we do need to do something here.”

Radon is a naturally occurring gas, that doesn’t have a smell and you can’t see it, but it is radioactive. When it gets into your home, it can come through the cracks, in foundations or if you’ve got a sump pump.

“When it’s breathed in, it causes damage to the inside of the lungs and that can become cancerous. Exposure to Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco,” Langille stressed.

Angela Stief Lea is a health-conscious, non-smoking 57-year-old physiotherapist who recently received a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer. Faced with a prognosis of just a few months, she is using her newfound knowledge of lung cancer-causing radon gas to raise awareness in the small community of Havelock.