Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Calgary, says cancer researchers are studying shifting radon exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ASP photo)

Canadian home radon exposure on the rise due to pandemic say experts

Evict Radon, a Canadian non-profit organization and team of university scholars dedicated to solving Canada’s large and worsening radon-gas exposure problem, has launched a new survey to understand the global pandemic’s impact on residential radon exposure. All participants in their ongoing national radon testing study are eligible.

The study was developed by Evict Radon researchers Drs. Cheryl Peters and Aaron Goodarzi, professors at the University of Calgary’s Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute. This is Canada’s largest COVID-related analyses of shifting radon exposure. Their goal is to accurately predict the future burden of radon-induced lung cancer in Canada.

“The trend toward working from home has been slowly increasing over the past decade. But those numbers have shifted dramatically in 2020 due to the widespread changes caused by COVID-19,” said Goodarzi. “We are currently analyzing the impact of this sudden change.”

Radon is an invisible but radioactive gas that is produced in the ground. Normally, it dilutes to virtually nothing as it emerges in outside air, but our buildings can often concentrate radon to hazardous levels not normally seen in nature – thus, high radon exposure is a human made problem that is now the second leading cause of all lung cancers.

Canada contains some of the highest radon- generating soils on our planet, with modern Canadian homes concentrating radon to increasingly high, cancer-causing levels. This trend continues to worsen, with Prairie provinces now being home to the second-highest radon-exposed population on this planet. Preliminary work by researchers indicates a 35% jump in residential radon exposure from March 2020 onwards.

“Radon exposure at home tends to be higher compared to offices that are subject to occupational health and safety regulations,” said Peters. “To maintain safety for the current and future Canadian workforce, it is imperative for us to understand changes in radon exposure.”

Evict Radon encourages Canadians to help public cancer research efforts and test for radon through their national radon study. The team emphasizes how this is especially important during the 2020 pandemic.

To determine the radon levels in your home, all one has to do is purchase a long-term (90 or more day) radon testing device. Radon tests require no electricity and are about the same size as a small hockey puck.

To learn more about radon and to join the national radon testing study, Canadians can visit www.evictradon.org. All participants enrolled in the national radon testing study are eligible to contribute to the ongoing pandemic- related radon study.