Whitehorse Daily Star

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Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost

Liberals plan groundbreaking radon legislation

The Yukon government will make radon testing and mitigation a licensing requirement

By Taylor Blewett on October 18, 2017

The Yukon government will make radon testing and mitigation a licensing requirement for new and existing child care centres and day homes in the territory, the Star has learned.

“I’m really proud to say that Yukon is leading the way on this,” Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said in an interview late this morning.

Currently, no other Canadian jurisdiction mandates radon testing to obtain a day care or day home licence.

The government has alerted all licensed child care centres and day homes in the territory to make them aware of the impending requirement, Frost told the Star.

A timeline for its rollout has yet to be established, but it will occur in phases.

According to a Health Canada website, radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that is created through the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock.

If the gas seeps into a structure and accumulates in high levels, radon inhalation can result in an aggravated risk of lung cancer.

“The health and safety of all Yukon children is the top priority for this government. So this new requirement will ensure that all children in licensed day care centres and day homes throughout the Yukon will be protected,” Frost said.

Mandatory testing

Last week, Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson asked the government whether it had decided to add mandatory radon testing to the “72-point assessment checklist that covers everything from ensuring the water supply meets the standards for Canadian drinking water to placement of thumbtacks,” that day cares and day homes must comply with to get a licence to operate from the Yukon government.

In a 2017 capital asset management report, the Auditor General of Canada noted that the Department of Health and Social Services has known about “unacceptable levels of radon in some of Yukon’s licensed daycares and day homes,” since 2008, Hanson told the legislature.

She also said departmental officials told the public accounts committee last June that they were considering mandatory radon testing, and would have a decision on the subject by this fall.

Erik Simanis, the owner-operator of Radon Measurement and Mitigation Yukon, said radon levels vary across the territory.

“There’s potential for it to be everywhere. I’ve done lots of work in Whitehorse and in the communities as well,” he said.

“There are certainly some spots that are worse and some that are better.”

Simanis offered a personal example to illustrate this.

When he tested his own home, radon levels came in at about 2,500 becquerels per cubic metre. The current Canadian guideline dictates that radon levels in a dwelling should not exceed 200 becquerels per cubic metre.

Simanis then tested his neighbour’s house, where radon levels where comparable to his home. But when he tested his neighbour on the other side, the house was found to contain no radon.

“Here, you pretty much have to test your place if you want to know,” Simanis said.

Testing for radon in a two-storey, six- to eight-bedroom building would cost a few hundred dollars, according to Simanis.

The price of radon remediation can range between $1,500 and $5,000 depending on a building’s size and construction.

Foundations, crawl-spaces and unfinished rooms are common factors that determine the concentration and complexity of radon presence in a building, he explained.

Simanis has tested one private daycare for radon, and found it had pretty low levels.

He said he supports a government decision to implement a testing requirement for daycare and day home licensing.

“Radon is a long-term health issue .... For the health considerations for our kids, spending a lot of time in these places, I would definitely want the radon tested.”

Last winter and spring, the Yukon government tested the care facilities, group homes, and young offender facilities that Health and Social Services is responsible for, according to Frost.

She could not confirm whether a particular facility was found to contain high levels of radon.

However, the minister said the government is working to “address the levels of radon” and implement “measures to mitigate.”

Comments (15)

Up 0 Down 0

Greg Zaporozan on Oct 30, 2017 at 10:45 am

Several comments questioning why kids/daycares. Children are very radiosensitive meaning their bodies are more sensitive than mature adults. Their cells are highly specialized/rapidly dividing and susceptible to damage from all kinds of hazards. As world radiation background levels increase, we need to protect our future predecessors wherever/however we can.

Up 5 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Oct 24, 2017 at 10:50 am

Granite counter-tops may also emit radon. The monster is not just in your basement or crawlspace. Stone fireplaces should be suspect as well.

Up 3 Down 9

Alan Whitehead on Oct 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The Yukon government are to be commended, demonstrating real leadership, to address a serious health risk, which is totally preventable. As many have commented, this ground breaking decision now needs to be extended to homes, schools and workplaces in the Yukon and across Canada. Radon (radiation) induced lung cancer can easily be prevented during new construction and in existing homes and buildings.

Up 9 Down 2

Rhein, it is to bad, you can't, get your facts, straight on Oct 22, 2017 at 3:19 pm

To get lung cancer from radon, you have to be exposed to it, for a long time at evaluated levels.
People that smoke, and are in contact with radon have high chance of getting censer. In the United States, they have studied the health issue and found almost 50% of smokers that interactive with radon, got lung censer.
That is the real facts.
Wilf Carter

Up 7 Down 10

Bob Wood on Oct 22, 2017 at 8:18 am

For those few that think testing for and fixing high levels of radon would be a bad thing..... radon is radiation in the air ...... high levels are bad for your health.... low levels are just less bad not good. Cheers to the government for leading the way and protecting kids!

Up 6 Down 10

Werner Rhein on Oct 21, 2017 at 11:43 am

Why are only kids important who spend most likely much less time at daycare or schools then at home. Often play rooms and game rooms in the basement even the TV room is often there.
Radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Why is there nothing in the building code for mitigation except a sheet of plastic on the ground in crawl spaces or under concrete. I worked most of my life in construction and haven't seen a lot these plastic sheets survive intact the construction period, never mind the abuse of crawl spaces as junk storage place.

It would be real easy and cheap to install the necessary plastic pipes just after the ground is excavated and before any foundation work is done. The health care cost savings could be thousand fold.

I totally denied that I would have Radon in my house then nobody has never tested in my area for it. We did some testing and bingo, the highest readings were at the conduit pipe for the water line entering the house from the well house. It comes out of the water well.
I got the water tested but there was nothing in it, because it could gas out in the underground storage tank I need because the well is not producing enough water for 2 units on the property.

So it needs very little to mitigate but the gain in health could be dramatic.

Up 8 Down 4

Radon plus on Oct 20, 2017 at 9:40 am

Radon enters homes on a slab also not just with a basement. All homes should be tested also. It's where you live so make it healthy. Radon is
easily removed and controlled. Thanks
Andrew Shipley

Up 4 Down 13

Francis on Oct 19, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Great job Pauline. Your Liberals going where other parties fear to tread.

Up 11 Down 3

Max Mack on Oct 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Lung cancer risk due to radon exposure in residential homes is very difficult to assess, and the best "science" is largely speculative in nature and determined by parameterized models which have never been shown to be good predictors.

It would be interesting to see how radon levels are to be determined under the proposed legislation, which rooms are measured, point estimates vs averages over time, weighting considerations, etc. Reasonableness should be the guide, not zeal.

Bottom line: adding a mandatory radon testing regimen will increase costs to businesses with a difficult-to-quantify and, perhaps, negligible benefit. These costs must be passed onto consumers (aka parents).

Up 3 Down 8

BnR on Oct 19, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Radon mitigation infrastructure is required in new homes, but is not required to be put into use. No requirements for existing homes or buildings.
Want it to be really groundbreaking? Require it in all buildings that are either dwelling units and workplaces.

Up 8 Down 0

comen sence on Oct 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

The building inspector made sure I got the vapor barrier exactly right and everything to code when I was building my dream home back in the 90's . I have 350bq/m cube, present in my living space of Radon. This should of been a factor when the design of my place was submitted because my crawl space is almost impossible to seal off implementing the negative pressure under this suggested membrane to capture gas that is harmful to us. Thanks for telling us now.

Up 9 Down 2

not all that expensive to deal with on your own on Oct 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm

The government gave out free radon tests last year and so far as remediation goes, it's a matter of creating an escape route so the radon gas does not gather in your basement. I suppose it can circulate around your home from there, but google it. Remediation is not a big deal.

Also, be aware the radon is a major cause of lung cancer.

Up 20 Down 9

Politico on Oct 18, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Why only Day Cares, any house with a basement can suffer from this. Why are there no provisions in any building codes to remediate building when they are built so this problems never show up.

Up 18 Down 4

Hmmm on Oct 18, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Well, that's great, but a kid spends what, 5-6 hours at a day care and the rest of the day at home. What about radon at our homes?

Up 27 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Oct 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Nice optics in this new legislation, but what about the schools where the majority of Yukon young people spend their days?

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