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Aaron Goodarzi

Yukoners very exposed to radon, expert warns

Aaron Goodarzi, research lead of Evict Radon, will conduct a talk on the dangers of radon gas this evening at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.

By Gabrielle Plonka on January 15, 2020

Aaron Goodarzi, research lead of Evict Radon, will conduct a talk on the dangers of radon gas this evening at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.

Evict Radon is a non-profit organization committed to research and awareness-building of radon exposure in Canada, a problem Goodarzi says is substantial.

“One thing I’ll talk about in the lecture is the specific factors of radon in the Yukon,” Goodarzi told the Star Tuesday. “It’s going to be a very highly radon-exposed population.”

Goodarzi is the Canada research chair for Radiation Exposure Disease, chair of the Evict Radon board and the organization’s head researcher.

He opened his own laboratory at the University of Calgary in 2011 and was named a “Peak Scholar” by the university in 2015, in recognition of his “innovation in radon gas and lung cancer knowledge engagement”.

Evict Radon is conducting research to determine the danger radon poses to Yukoners.

Based on the geology, homes and numbers gathered thus far, Goodarzi estimates Yukoners may be one of the highest radon-exposed populations on the planet.

“Occupationally, what we know is that per capita, Yukoners are already the most exposed population in the workplace to radon of anywhere in Canada–– that data has been done.”

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas contained in soil. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless, making it undetectable without radon measurement technology. It emits alpha particle radiation, which severely damages DNA when breathed in at high quantities. These DNA mutations are a driver of cancer formation.

Radon gas levels are measured in Becquerel units (Bq/m3). Safe levels of radon gas measure below 100 Bq/m3, while houses measuring at 200 Bq/ m3, or higher, require mitigation.

Goodarzi says that in initial tests, some houses in the Yukon were found to measure 8,000 Bq/m3: 40 times the level that is considered dangerous.

Radon is a category one carcinogenic, and exposure is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in Canadians. According to Goodarzi, there are 4,000 cases of radon-caused lung cancer diagnosed per year in Canada.

Children, smokers and those with a family history of cancer diagnoses are the most susceptible to radon-caused cancers.

The good news, Goodarzi says, is the danger is “extremely preventable” thanks to radon testing and mitigation technology.

There are a number of sources from which Yukoners can purchase a radon testing kit; however, purchasing from Evict Radon will help the organization collect data for research.

Radon testing kits contain an “alpha track” device which gauges the radon levels in a home or office over the course of 90 days.

Employers testing an office space should place a radon kit in every occupied office, as radon levels can differ among the spaces. Tests in the home should be placed at the lowest level of the house occupants spend four or more hours per day on, like a basement or ground floor.

After three months, the radon test kit is returned to the lab for testing and the resulting levels will be reported back in a mere few weeks.

When an Evict Radon test kit is used, that information is then stripped of identifying information and the anonymous data are reported to the organization’s research team.

Testers will be asked to fill out a short survey with information that will help identify the trends contributing to high radon levels: the year the house was built, the square footage and the ceiling height, for example.

“These are the features of our houses that have changed with time, that we need to know about in order to understand the Canadian radon problem,” Goodarzi said. 

These factors could potentially hold the answer to why radon exposure has increased so dramatically in the 20th and 21st centuries in Canada, Goodarzi said. 

According to the Evict Radon website, testing should only occur between October and April, because tests conducted in those months provide more accurate readings.

There are two modifiable factors leading to high levels of radon in the home: how radon travels from the ground into a building and how that building concentrates the gas to dangerous levels.

Goodarzi says if a building is found to contain high levels of radon, the solutions are generally simple and affordable.

If radon levels are found to be extremely high, a radon filtering device can be installed.

The ventilation pipe will reroute radon gas from the foundation of a building and track it outside. 

“They all work, 100 per cent,” Goodarzi said of the filter systems. “That’s your worst-case scenario and it takes a couple of days to work.”

In other cases, the solution is even simpler, Goodarzi said. For example, in the prairies it was found that leaky sump pumps were a cause of radon leaking into homes at high levels. Simply making those pumps airtight would fix the issue.

Yukoners are invited to attend Goodarzi’s free information session at 7:00 this evening to learn more information and ask questions.

Comments (19)

Up 0 Down 0

Emma on Nov 18, 2021 at 9:02 pm

Came to the Yukon 24 years ago from Europe. Had my house tested (when nobody here had apparently heard of Radon and it's dangers - so I had to make a real effort to get a testing device-- from Europe- ) and the reading was way too high. I spent quite some money to fix the problem..while people thought I am just an "eccentric European".

Up 1 Down 0

Always Questions on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:40 pm

MO agreed! Once we're all up to 'code' on fuel tanks and contaminated soils because our insurance companies demanded replacement & remediation oh, and seismic restraints. I wonder if they'll (insurance companies) start requiring Radon testing and mitigation? It's all about the risk after all, which is? Got any stats?
When "not expensive" means no additional cost to me, I'll get right on all this energy efficiency and 'safety' upgrades, until then my home functions perfectly fine and within my budget! $3400 OUTRAGEOUS!
I have to replace my expired wired smoke/co detectors, 3 x 77.00 + gst? Is that affordable? At minimum wage that's more than half of an 8 hr shift. I thought they'd be closer to $35 each. You REALLY have to consider how to prioritize these things. I will be replacing ONE detector.

Up 2 Down 1

woodcutter on Jan 21, 2020 at 2:52 pm

From the comments it would appear that the right wing is seeing this a Liberal agenda...lol. This is a health issue that you can heed or ignore, however if there is anyone left from the right, in the future, as it appears that the Darwin principle will remove the chaff from the wheat in the near future, there will be much less sniveling and crying and that's not a bad thing, is it?

Radon, making the world a better place, one denier at a time.

Up 13 Down 6

My Opinion on Jan 21, 2020 at 12:34 pm

This is just another Chicken Little industry.
Create a problem and then fix it with their specialized equipment. No Thanks.
At most all you need is an HRV for any kind of air issues which most already have. If you have a crawl space just add a line of the negative side to the crawl space. Done deal.

You do not need it to turn into an industry like the replacing of your Fuel Tanks or Soil Remediation.
Share your info with these guys and you may render your house unsaleable. Careful what you share.

Up 5 Down 1

woodcutter on Jan 21, 2020 at 10:38 am

Cost to install?
$3400.00 for a house that's 3 hours away from Whitehorse.

Up 8 Down 3

Gyro Gearloose on Jan 21, 2020 at 2:33 am

Uh, isn't my HRV exhausting all the potentially radon diffused air outside of my place now?

Up 1 Down 1

WR on Jan 20, 2020 at 8:44 pm

I think the vents go under the insulation, like totally below the subfloor. They dig the hole for the house, lay down a layer of poly, then put the vent above that, at the level of the footings. Then come the joists and the insulation above that space. That is my guess! Still though, I think that's where water pipes go isn't it? Anyway good question from WR.

Up 10 Down 3

Ima Frayed on Jan 20, 2020 at 7:15 pm

Dear Whitehorse Resident - The costs associated with Radon mitigation and other such forms of friendly fascism go much deeper than the installation of the apparatus and the related costs such as energy consumption.

The incipient costs are much less benign and they are psychological. For example, when the government engaged in the mass twitting exercise to school parents it heightened the fears and concerns of parents at the aggregate. Radon mitigation is another such measure under the guise of safety and security. Why are the Becquerels in my basement going up? What?!?! Becquerel is a unit measure of radioactivity... Radioactivity!?!? Yes, from the decay of Uranium which is found in most soils etc. Uranium?!?! Yes, but the atomic decay rate has a half-life of 3-4 days. Uranium?!?!

Lawn darts, baby walkers, tide pods, sexual predators, nuclear war, uncomfortable words... We have been given plenty to fear and our brains are wired to accept these fear messages as an evolutionary advantage to survival - They are automatic.

However, this does not mean that any particular fear has a basis in reality. It just means that a false positive is more advantageous to ones survival than a false negative. It sounds great and it sounds like people care. However, it is mostly all just self-serving hokum. Like the Millennial/Boomer baiting shite!
Human behaviour... Very much a sellers market... Buyers should beware but they cannot help themselves... Fear, fear, fear... Fear those fools!

Well said T H-T... Well said!

Up 12 Down 1

Whitehorse Resident on Jan 20, 2020 at 11:34 am

So, I've learned a bit about Radon, understand the risks for the most part. People keep saying the mitigation is not expensive. Can someone please share what "not expensive" actually is? Seems to me having a pump to circulate air outside running 24hrs/365 is going to be expensive, not to mention the cost to buy and install.

Up 8 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Jan 18, 2020 at 4:09 pm

I'll bet the tobacco companies are glad Health Canada decided to focus attention on radon for a while. Things were looking grim for them once again with all the chatter about vaping and irs dangers. Somebody took the gloves off their ad campaign and it made results. https://youtu.be/d3aPiGnSe2I

Nothing a good sin tax couldn't fix eh?

Up 9 Down 4

North_of_60 on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:17 pm

@Dan Irvine is correct. Radon: Measure and mitigate.
In most cases it's simple, easy, and not expensive.
If combined with other energy reducing measures it can be offset with gvt$.
At the very least measure levels at this time of year and decide if mitigation is recommended. Inexpensive test kits are available from Amazon.

Up 10 Down 17

T. Hinkette-Thrudood on Jan 16, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Absolutely George - That is the liberal economy at work... Fear, fear, fear... regulate, legislate, fear, fear, fear... Fear those fools...

Up 5 Down 7

JC on Jan 16, 2020 at 4:01 pm

What about people who live in apartment buildings. They get the kit, find out that their apartment is full of radon. They go to the owner of the apartment building tell him to install a system. The owner says sure, but I will have to raise the rent. If you keep your mouth shut, you now have to live with the knowledge that your life may be shortened and will probably die from the horrible death of cancer. No thanks, I will take my chances since I can't afford higher rents on my income.

Up 18 Down 12

George on Jan 16, 2020 at 10:11 am

We seem to be prone to attracting every new 'scientific specialist' who has discovered their particular specialty is about to kill us unless we engage them to sell us the cure......wait a minute....Disney was here first.

Up 17 Down 5

Dan Irvine on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:48 am

No JC keeping it quiet is not the answer. Exhausting it from your building with a properly designed mitigation system is the answer. Dilution to background levels happens within inches of the exhaust point. Convert Bequerels to the Msv dose to get chest xray equivalent and you will see the impact. 1000 Bq = a chest x ray every 2.1 days. Science is science people. I have installed nearly 100 mitigation systems and generally see 90+% reductions. Measure and mitigate.

Up 17 Down 3

YukonMax on Jan 16, 2020 at 7:24 am

The government has conducted some tests in our facility more then once. But they sure sit on the results though. Never seen one in the last 12 years. So we have to trust the government to tell us that our workplace is safe. Now don't get excited, our facility is way out in a community. Far from the eyes. No one ever comes here...from the "City".

Up 12 Down 6

Jonathan Colby on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:47 pm

That's, uh, not how it works.
Like, at all.

Up 21 Down 3

Crunch on Jan 15, 2020 at 5:28 pm

The Yukon would be a great place to target this presentation. You'll notice that he is not in Northern Saskatchewan or anywhere else which is " off the dole". If your going to live in a plastic bag there are more than likely going to be consequences. This new phenomena is part and parcel of how we build in a world with spiraling costs. There has always been radon and the snake oil salesmen are out in full force. What ever you do don't crack a window for some air.

Up 17 Down 35

JC on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:50 pm

Now, isn't that the greatest news to get after all these years. So we get a filtering device and reroute the gas outside. Nice and safe inside, but when we go out we get it there. Nice to know that now so many of us are going to die of cancer. Will this be within 12 years or before the 12 years that Princess Greta prophesied we were all going to die from climate change? Should the Liberal government legislate a radon tax? Will that help us live a little longer? I think its best to keep this kind of information quiet.

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