What is radon?
This radioactive gas formed by the gradual breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soil, can seep through foundations and build up to harmful levels indoors. Radon exists in all regions of Canada and is the number one cause of lung cancer in Canada among non-smokers.
Long-term exposure to high levels of radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. A person exposed long-term to high radon levels has a 1 in 20 chance of developing lung cancer. If there is also exposure to cigarette smoke, this risk increases to 1 in 3.
What to do
You can’t see, taste or smell it. The only way to find out the level of radon in an indoor space is to test for it. Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. In Canada test kits for homes cost between $35 and $50, while professional testing runs around $150. If high levels of radon are found, a radon professional can reduce the levels by installing a pipe in the basement floor with an exhaust fan that draws radon from below the basement floor through a pipe to the outdoors, or by increasing ventilation and sealing cracks and openings in foundation walls and floors.
Radon in schools and child care
Children and staff spend between 1500 and 2500 hours per year in schools and child care facilities, which may have elevated levels of radon.
Government recommendations for testing in schools and child care
In 2016 the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada recommended that schools, homes and workplaces be tested for radon. Health Canada recommends that all public buildings, including schools and day cares, be tested.
Status of radon testing in Canadian schools
CAREX Canada, a national project that considers the exposure of Canadians to cancer-causing substances in workplace and community environments, investigated radon testing efforts in schools across Canada. Key findings include
- All public schools in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon have been tested for radon.
- British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland have low rates of radon testing in schools.
- Quebec has a collaborative approach to radon testing in schools led by the ministries of Education and Health, which is a product of the Inter-Sectoral Committee on Radon.
- In 2018, 500+ Canadian schools expressed interest or developed plans to test for radon.
- Only Prince Edward Island and Yukon make all school testing results openly available to the public.
More information: Policy Measures to Address Radon in the Child Care Sector
The Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment (CPCHE) is a national collaboration of 16 organizations with expertise in public health, medicine, environmental protection, disability advocacy, law and policy, research, and early childhood education. Since 2001 CPCHE has been working to advance the protection of children’s health and development from the risks posed by toxic chemicals and pollutants. (www.healthyenvironmentforkids.ca).
The Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF) is Canada’s largest national service-based early learning and child care organization. It is a federation of 20 provincial/territorial organizations, representing 9,000 members including practitioners, academics, parents and policy makers. CCCF is a founding partner of CPCHE. (http://www.cccf-fcsge.ca)