Are BC laws failing to protect us from a leading lung cancer risk?

As Radon Action Month (November annually) comes to a close, BC radon issue stakeholders meet Thursday, November 28, 2019 to discuss next steps.

The BC Lung Association will host its 8th annual radon workshop this week, mobilizing BC stakeholders to address action needed to eliminate radon, the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Radon exposure is responsible for approximately 16 percent of lung cancer deaths in Canada. Invisible, odourless and tasteless, the only way to know if radon gas levels pose a danger in one’s home is to do a radon testTo date less than 1 in 10 Canadians have tested their homes.  

“We’re looking to uncover where the law is lacking or might be improved to ensure healthy indoor environments, beginning with the issue of indoor radon exposure,” said Dr. Noah Quastel, research investigator, lawyer and fellow BC Lung Association Healthy Indoor Environment Program member.

“Indoor air quality as a whole and especially radon really falls through the cracks in our regulatory system. The BC Building Code requires new buildings in many radon prone areas of the province to have radon mitigation systems. However, this is a relatively new provision, and does not apply to the vast majority of existing buildings we live, work, study or visit,” he continued.

Thursday’s workshop will cover the science and health of radon and focus on important pilot programs including:

Increasing radon testing by making testing devices available FREE through local libraries.

Recent BC community-level home radon testing campaigns have found radon levels to be twice as high previously thought by health authorities. To increase BC home radon testing and expand available data to more accurately map indoor radon exposure risk in BC - Health Canada, Simon Fraser University, radon-detector-maker Airthings and the BC Lung Association launched a ‘Library Radon Detector Lending’ pilot program in 2018 in North Vancouver and Sunshine Coast libraries. Using a simple-to-use, mobile-phone-sized device, library borrowers can find out if their home has unhealthy radon levels and if steps need taken to mitigate radon exposure health risks. The BC Lung Association hopes to see the program adopted by libraries province-wide.

Requiring radon testing and mitigation where necessary in all BC schools and daycares.

Children’s developing lungs are most susceptible to radon lung-cancer related exposure risk. Required testing and mitigation of radon in childcare settings and schools is an important early first step in tackling this hidden, preventable health crisis. All public schools in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon have been tested for radon. BC has a low rate, and no regulations that require radon testing in schools. That said, BC’s Interior Health Authority made radon testing a requirement for all licensed child care facilities – setting an example the BC Lung Association’s would like to see modeled province-wide. 

Helping ensure BC realtors tell their clients about radon.

Real estate transactions are a key point in time when people are focused on the health of their homes. BC's Real Estate Council has recognized radon as a serious environmental health issue, and notified members through the Professional Standards Manual.  However, BC Lung Association research, supported by the Real Estate Foundation of BC, shows few realtors know about radon or bring up the issue with their clients. Of the 402 realtors who took a survey on Radon in Real Estate, fewer than 10 percent reported having sufficient knowledge to advise clients and only 19 percent could correctly identify Canada's Radon Guidelines. However, in workshops in Vancouver and Kelowna, and webinars directed at realtors in Kamloops, Kootenays, and Northern British Columbia there was strong support for seeing radon as a latent defect in a home up for sale, more realtor education and  government taking more action. "Real estate licensees have professional obligations to raise the radon issue, even if their clients do not think of the issue,” Dr. Quastel said. "At the same time, Real estate licensees have a tremendous opportunity to raise radon awareness, and saving lives through radon testing and mitigation.”


November 28, 2019 | 9:30am to 3:30pm

Sandman Hotel & Suites, 32720 Simon Avenue, Abbotsford, BC. Note this is not the Sandman Hotel on Mt Lehman Rd off Hwy 1


Attending are local public health officials, government policy makers, building industry professionals and real estate professionals. Interviews can be arranged with key stakeholders.


Download the workshop agenda.





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Page Last Updated: 07/01/2020