Residents of Sparwood received quite a scare last month when a recent Health Canada survey placed the community in the top five for household radon readings in the country. But the district of Sparwood is moving forward with caution.
The Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (200 Bq/m3), and while one reading from a Sparwood household came in at 2,941 Bq/m3, readings and levels can vary dramatically from household to household.
“Yes, it’s potentially concerning to have such a high reading, but it can happen anywhere,” commented Nelson Wight, district of Sparwood manager of planning.
“I think the important thing to recognize is that the East Kootenay region is high compared to the B.C. average in terms of homes that through that study recorded radon levels above the recommended guideline before mitigation measures need to be taken,” continued Wight. “We don’t know if Sparwood is any different than any other community within the East Kootenay region.”
Wight emphasized that there were only two data points included in the survey from Sparwood and that further research would be needed before drawing any conclusions on radon potential within the community.
The survey tested approximately 14,000 homes across Canada, with over 1,500 showing levels above the guidelines. Rankings higher than Sparwood were found in Armstrong Station, Ontario (5,657 Bq/m3) and Bas-Paquetville, New Brunswick (5,590 Bq/m3).
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada after smoking. It is a radioactive gas naturally emitted form the earth through the breakdown of uranium in soil and enters your home by seeping in through cracks, pipes, windows and the foundation. It is estimated that radon kills 3,000 Canadians every year.
With council’s approval, Health Canada is now launching an Education and Awareness Strategy on Radon Measurement in Sparwood. The pilot program will raise awareness and provide education on the risk of radon in homes.
“Health Canada targeted our community to pilot an education awareness study to which they can potentially roll out to other communities and learn from us,” explained Wight. “Part of that is because we’re a smaller community and we’re in a region of the province that is high
relative to those levels of radon.”
He added, “I think it’s an opportunity for us to learn for our community and that’s why I’m recommending we proceed with it.”
The program will also collect additional information on the levels of radon in Sparwood homes through voluntary participation from residents.
“I totally agree that we need to take a closer look. I’m glad that we’re going to participate, I think it’s a good idea,” said councillor Sharon Fraser. “But I also think that until we can actually say to people this is really affecting the community, these rates are too high, we shouldn’t be scaring the hell out of people.”
Council voted unanimously to proceed with the Education and Awareness Strategy.