Be aware of radon and lung cancer risks
The air we breathe has an impact on our health every day. In November, the Government of Canada observes Lung Cancer Awareness Month and National Radon Action Month to remind Canadians that both lifestyle choices and environmental factors can affect the health of our lungs.
Many Canadians are unaware of the health risks of radon gas. Exposure to radon is, in fact, the leading cause of cancer in non-smokers. Sadly, exposure to this gas kills more than 3,200 Canadians each year. As part of National Radon Action Month, the Government of Canada is raising awareness of this often overlooked health risk.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the ground and is found in all homes. It has no colour, smell or odour. At low levels, it does not pose a significant health risk. However, radon gas can build up over time, and prolonged exposure to elevated levels can cause lung cancer.
Fortunately, radon can be detected using a simple and inexpensive test, which is available online, at select local retailers, through a community health organization or from a certified radon professional.
In most homes, high levels of radon can be reduced by more than 80 per cent for the same cost as replacing a furnace or air conditioner. A radon mitigation professional who has been certified under the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) can help you find the best way to reduce the radon level in your home.
In Canada, lung cancer has a devastating impact on individuals and their families. In fact, lung cancer (along with colorectal, breast and prostate cancers) is one of the four types that make up close to 50 per cent of all cancer cases diagnosed in Canada. Lung Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to learn more about the signs and symptoms of this disease, and to take action to prevent it.
Symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage and may include problems breathing (shortness of breath, wheezing, or a persistent, worsening cough), chest pain (especially when breathing deeply or coughing), coughing up blood, frequent or persistent chest infections, fatigue and unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite.
Although many of these symptoms could be caused by something other than lung cancer, you should consult a health professional if you experience any of them consistently, or if they won’t go away. In addition, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends that adults 55-74 years of age with a history of smoking 30 packs or more of cigarettes per year, be screened for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT).
Test the radon level in your home; if it’s high, reduce it. Visit Health Canada’s website for more information on lung cancer or radon gas. You can also access information and resources by visiting Take Action on Radon.