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Is radon exposure a hazard in your workplace?

Jan 17, 2020

Is radon exposure a hazard in your workplace?Did you know that radon is a naturally occurring gas that can increase the risk of lung cancer? It may be found in all types of indoor workplaces, from factories, warehouses and offices to shops, schools and hotels. If you’d like to find out if your workplace contains radon, you may want to participate in a study that's underway.

Radon is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. Basements, crawlspaces, and underground facilities may pose a higher risk of exposure since radon enters buildings through cracks in the foundation, pipe openings, and other places where the building has contact with and is open to the ground. Radon levels on the main floor of buildings may also be elevated if there is an entry point (e.g. cracks in the concrete slab) and ventilation is poor.

A group of researchers has launched a project measuring the levels of radon gas in small to medium sized businesses in Ontario, as well as in public workplaces. Project results will help the researchers determine where levels are higher and what factors, such as building type and size, influence radon levels. This work will also help the researchers better understand how to target radon reduction efforts.

If your workplace is located in any of these 10 communities, you may be eligible to participate:

  • Brantford
  • Chatham-Kent
  • Elliot Lake
  • Guelph
  • Kingston
  • Ottawa
  • Sudbury
  • Toronto
  • Windsor
  • Woodstock

Why should my workplace participate?

Testing is the only way to know if radon levels in your workplace are higher than the Health Canada/WHO guidelines. If so, your employees may be at risk of lung cancer. Your workplace's participation also presents an opportunity to contribute to scientific research in Canada and further our knowledge of radon.

What's involved?

Participants will receive a free radon test kit, including a small monitor (5.1 cm x 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm). Remaining in place for three months, the monitors make no noise, do not require power, are safe, and do not emit radiation.

Workplaces can withdraw from the project at any time. Results for individual locations will be kept private. The researchers will publish only high level information, such as average radon levels for the entire health region. For workplaces with elevated levels, the researchers will share resources on how they can be reduced.

Who is leading this study?

The project is being conducted by researchers from the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, University of Toronto, and Simon Fraser University, as well as the Lung Association - Ontario and the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada.

How were the communities chosen?

Seven communities were selected because they have relatively larger populations and are located in health regions where a greater percentage of homes exceed Health Canada/WHO guidelines compared to the Ontario average. In addition, six of the seven are located in high radon hazard potential areas, based on a map created from geological data.

The study area also includes Elliot Lake - the former uranium mining region of Ontario - and three municipalities located in low radon hazard potential areas. Municipalities in low-hazard areas are included to assess whether elevated radon levels are likely to occur in underground workspaces even in these areas.

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