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Check Homes for Radon Gas, Urge Canadian Health Groups

OTTAWA — Canadians should have their homes checked for radon, a colourless and odourless gas that can have potentially deadly effects over time, health organizations warn.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Lung Association and Health Canada have joined forces to raise awareness about exposure to radon.

Formed by the breakdown of uranium, the naturally occurring radioactive gas is present in all soil. In the open air, radon gas is diluted to low levels and does not pose a health risk. But radon can enter a home through dirt floors, cracks in concrete, joints and basement drains; in enclosed spaces such as basements, the gas can reach levels harmful to health.

"Many Canadians are not aware of the risks from residential radon gas and what they can do to stay healthy," CMA president Dr. Jeff Turnbull said in a release Tuesday. "With winter approaching, physicians want to make sure their patients are aware of this potential health hazard."

Prolonged exposure to residential radon is responsible for about 10 per cent of lung cancer deaths.

"The link between smoking and lung cancer is well known. However, not many are aware of the link between radon and lung cancer," said Heather Borquez, CEO and president of the Canadian Lung Association. "Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, especially for those who smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes."

Radon detectors and radon test kits are available through retail outlets. Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for a minimum of three months, ideally between September and April when windows tend to be closed.

Fact sheets about the health risks and how consumers can test their homes have been distributed to doctors' offices and clinics across the county. Additional resources and a video on how to test for radon can be found on the Health Canada website www.healthcanada.gc.ca/radon. The website also includes steps for reducing radon gas to safe levels.

To view this article, visit http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20101109/radon-gas-health-101109/.