Odourless. Colorless. Tasteless. Second leading cause of lung cancer.
Researchers with the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary are warning Calgarians about the very real possibility that their home sweet homes may be toxic. This toxicity is the result of radon gas, a by-product of uranium degradation in the soil underneath our homes, which can enter through the basement.
In a recent study published just last year, a sampling of about 2300 private residences found that about 1 in 8 homes in Calgary contained radon levels that exceeded the upper limit set out by Health Canada.
Radon is a known carcinogen. Certain cancers can be caused by high lifetime exposures to radiation, and it is thought that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking. Given that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, it seems it is well worth testing your home. Radon kits can be purchased by a variety of suppliers, or you can hire a company to your home. If radon levels are high, there are measures that can be taken to reduce your exposure, and thus reduce your risk for cancer.
In order to appreciate how serious this is, a 2012 study conducted in Alberta concluded that about 16.6% of all lung cancers were attributable to radon gas exposure. The incidence of this type of lung cancer is higher in those that have never smoked cigarettes. The incidence is also higher in those who own homes or live in basement suites, as most radon gas enters through the lower levels of the home. Therefore, people who live in high-rise condominiums are unlikely to be affected by radon gas exposure.
The early signs of lung cancer include 1) a cough that will not go away after 3 weeks, 2) chest pain worse with breathing or laughing, 3) a hoarse voice, 4) shortness of breath, and 5) fatigue that is worse than your usual.