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"Health Canada reduced the guidelines for radon on indoor air back in 2007. Since then, we've been doing as much as we can to provide awareness."

According to Health Canada, radon is naturally occurring, radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium within soil and rock. Sandy Hutchison, regional radiation specialist for Manitoba Saskatchewan region for Health Canada, says, "it's always been here. The biggest difference is when you put a structure in contact with the ground, it's able to accumulate in that building which is where we see the increased risk."

The average amount of homes infected by radon is 7%, however, Manitoba's average is much more staggering in size.

"Manitoba, on the whole, is very radon prone," says Hutchison. "Based on a cross-Canada survey, we found that 19% of homes in Manitoba are expected to be above the guideline of 200 becquerels per cubic meter. So that means you don't have to go very far down your street."

One in every five homes is likely to be at an elevated level. That is significantly above the national average.

Thankfully, you don't have to worry about fleeing the province just yet. There is an easy and cheap solution to test and to remove radon that may be in your home.

"Get testing done since that is the only way to know how much radon is in your home or business environment. Make an informed decision about preventing lung cancer and protecting your health," Hutchison urges.

"The test is very simple to do yourself. There are trained professionals if you would prefer to go that route. Essentially what you're using is a passive device. No chemicals, no electronics. Just put it in the area of the home that is occupied on a regular basis. It is the air you are breathing that we are concerned about since lung cancer is the risk here. Just place it in a room on an end table, a bookshelf, somewhere it will have room to measure the air you're breathing. Have it sent off to a laboratory to do the rest of the work. They will send you a report compared to Canada's health guideline."

Hutchison suggests that if you are in your basement on a regular basis (four hours a day or more) to place one there as well.

The Canadian Cancer Society sells these test kits for $30 which includes shipping, taxes, and all the equipment necessary.

If your home is found to have unhealthy amounts of radon, a process called depressurization can reduce them. 

Tami Tchiessen is the Southern Manitoba representative for the Canadian Cancer Society. She says, "a radon mitigator knows how to solve the problem. They'll put in a depressurization system which acts as a bypass and sucks up all the gas from below your house to exhaust it out."

Hutchison says that though radon levels may be present outdoors, you won't have to worry too much about it damaging your lungs outside. It's the radon trapped inside that is the main issue of concern.

For those that smoke tobacco, cigars, or cigarettes, they should worry about how this can affect their chances of lung cancer.

Hutchison says, "smoking and elevated radon exposure will provide a lifetime risk significantly higher than either one alone. You're looking at a 30% risk of lung cancer."

According to Tchiessen, smoking as well as elevated radon exposure will increase your risk of lung cancer by eight times.

According to Health Canada, Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It causes lung cancer, and that's a reality.

Tchiessen noted that radon is not caused by anything farmers have been spreading in their fields, it's just that Manitoba has more uranium in its soil. "It is nothing that we have caused. For some reason, Manitoba is high in uranium. That's the gist of it. 

Multiple resources on the internet are available to provide more information on the topic. Tchiessen will be holding an open house on February 24th with radon test kits for sale as well as other tools and resources in Steinbach at the Jake Epp library from noon - 4:30.

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