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What is radon?

Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soils and rocks.

What are the health risks associated with radon?

Find out more about the national campaign Take Action on Radon.

The amount of radon gas in the open air is very small and it does not pose a health risk. However, in some confined spaces like basements, crawlspaces and underground mines, radon gas can accumulate to higher levels and be become a health hazard.

In 2007, Health Canada reduced the acceptable radon concentration level in dwellings from 800 Becquerel’s per cubic metre (Bq/m3) to 200 Bq/m3. This change was in step with the United States and many European nations.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that studies conducted in Europe, North America and China in 2005 and 2006 showed that the presence of the radioactive gas in homes is more dangerous than previously thought. The agency said “radon is a significant cause of 3 per cent to 14 per cent of worldwide lung cancer cases. “Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes”, said Dr. Maria Neira, a WHO specialist on health and environment. The WHO recommended countries to set radon limits in homes of 100 becquerels per cubic metre.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer for people who have never smoked.. This is dependent upon the concentration of radon gas and the length of time (years) a person is exposed. Smokers have been found to be more at risk to developing cancer in relation to long-term radon exposure.

Because it is radioactive, radon gas decays. As it decays, it produces radioactive decay products (RDPs) sometimes called radon daughters or radon progeny. Two of these progeny, polonium -218 and polonium -214 decay rapidly themselves and emit alpha particles. When alpha particles hit an object, the energy in them is absorbed by the surface of the object. Human skin is thick enough not be affected, but if you breathe in alpha particles, they can damage bronchial and lung tissue and can lead to lung cancer.

Is radon present in Yukon communities?

Yes. Radon is present in all Yukon communities and every subdivision in Whitehorse to varying degrees. According to a recent Cross Canada Survey by Health Canada, Yukon is ranked as having the third highest percentage of homes that tested above Canada’s national guideline of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

Geology in the local area plays a key role in determining if radon is present and may change from property to property within the same subdivision based on geological and ground composition features. Also, each home is unique and radon levels will be different based on variables such as: house construction, local environmental conditions including wind exposure, weather, soil type, and the amount of radon present in the ground under the home. The best method to determine radon level in your home is to perform a test.

Radon Levels in Yukon

The new interactive maps are a summary of radon testing in Whitehorse and Yukon communities. Find the results of radon tests in your community.

The Yukon Radon Maps (Yukon Communities Whitehorse) are a summary of the radon testing that has been performed in homes in various Whitehorse subdivisions and Yukon communities since 2006. As you can see, the percentage of homes that have been tested to date is low. The graphs illustrate the average radon concentrations in the homes sampled in a given area. The ranges shown are: under 100 Bq/m3 ; 100-200 Bq/m3; 200-600 Bq/m3 ; and over 600 Bq/m3. The reason for these ranges is that Health Canada recommends reducing radon levels below 200 Bq/m3, within 1 year if the radon test indicates levels above 600 Bq/ m3; within 2 years if the concentrations are between 200 and 600 Bq/m3; and the World Health Organization recommends mitigation if test results are above 100 Bq/m3.

Does Yukon have certified radon professionals?

Yes. Yukon Housing Corporation partnered with Yukon Lung Association and hosted C-NRPP certified Radon Measurement and Radon Mitigation training and brought C-NRPP instructors to Yukon. To contact a radon measurement professional to test your home and/or to mitigate your home, go to www.c-nrpp.ca/find-a-professional.

Test Your Home

Contact a certified radon measurement professional or purchase a radon test kit from a local hardware store. Check the test kit you buy to make sure that it will be analyzed in Canada. Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for a minimum of three months, so make sure you get a long-term kit.

Yukon has a number of specialists who have been certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program. They will consult with you about the radon levels in your home and make a plan to reduce them to safe levels. For more information about radon and what you can do to secure your home and protect your family, visit www.takeactiononradon.ca.