Radon Gas in South Central Manitoba

Health Canada is trying to get the word out about high local radon levels and South Central Cancer Resources (SCCR) is the non-profit agency working together with them in disseminating valuable information on the health risks of radon gas.  Located in Morden, SCCR provides “Cancer Support in our communities by our communities”.  That includes a much needed transportation program for South Central Manitoba clients diagnosed with cancer and in need of transportation to and from appointments and treatments in Winnipeg.  SCCR also provides funding to cover the cost of Lymphedema treatments and sleeves, a Skin Screening Program and a Wellness Program.  The organization also supports the radon program by educating our communities in South Central Manitoba with the hazards of Radon gas in homes and by reimbursing Lab Testing Fees. 

Radon gas is the second largest cause of lung cancer, next to smoking.  

Radon gas is radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground and the area around Morden is found to be rich in it due to the glacial till left behind.  SCCR has been working together with Health Canada’s Environmental Health Program in facilitating studies and providing information on the presence of Radon in Manitoba.  Sandy Hutchison, the Regional Radiation Specialist for Health Canada, stated in January 28th’s Winkler Morden Voice (page 15) that, “Geologically, Morden and surrounding area seems to be at a bigger disadvantage along with some of the other communities along the escarpment”.  SCCR is promoting the message, encouraging homeowners to test their homes for radon. 

“We see a large percentage of the homes in the area that have elevated radon levels.  Time and time again we see that Morden is one of the most radon prone regions in the country”. 

You cannot see it, smell it or taste it, but radon can easily enter homes through cracks and gaps in the floors, walls, windows and doors.  It is a naturally occurring gas in the soil and the age of the home is of no consequence.  It exists at some levels in all buildings, however the question is “how much”.  The only way to know for sure is to test for it.  The current Canadian guideline for radon is 200 becquerels per cubic meter (200 Bq/m3).  A number of studies in recent years have shown a high percentage of tested homes in this area have levels that are far above that.  SCCR recently reported that 78 percent of homes tested above the national guidelines for radon.  

What do you do if your home tests above the national guidelines?  Mitigation of radon involves the installation of a depressurization system that operates around the clock to draw the gas out of the home.  One challenge for many homeowners is the cost of mitigation.  The University of Brandon recently had students complete a community project together with the Lung Association of Manitoba and the interesting data that ensued again pointed to high levels of radon in South Central Manitoba and the fact that cost is a significant factor in being unable to mitigate.  There are ongoing initiatives happening as we speak to help with the cost of mitigation.  Hutchinson feels there will be some good news to announce, sooner rather than later, regarding help for homeowners in South Central Manitoba.  In the meantime, people can find more information through Health Canada and can go online to to find a test kit or a local certified professional.  In South Central Manitoba, test kits are available for purchase at Home Hardware, Polar Plumbing and Heating and other venues as listed in the above website.  

Respectfully submitted by:  Gail Shimonek

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