Dear Editor:

My odyssey began when I was told I had incurable lung cancer. After a lifetime of eating healthful food, drinking pure water and living an active life, this came as quite a shock!

Naturally I wanted to know what had caused my illness and my search led me to discover our home was filled with radon a colourless, odourless, tasteless radioactive gas. Indeed, I have found that our entire valley has very high levels of radon and, perhaps coincidentally, a very high incidence of cancer. I want to share what I have learned so people can take steps to protect themselves and their families.

Older homes with a basement are most likely to have a radon problem. Radon is heavier than air so it has a tendency to collect in the lowest level of a house, but because it is a gas it can be pulled to higher levels in the house through variations in temperature and air pressure (ventilation).

Radon gas present in the soil can enter a house right through the concrete basement floor, through cracks in the concrete floor or walls, or through drains and sump pumps.

Generally contractors building new homes are aware of the possibility of radon infiltration and they put down an impermeable barrier between the basement floor and the soil or vent the radon with suction. Homes without a basement usually have enough air circulation under the floor to dissipate the gas and prevent the problem.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways one can correct a radon problem and these are explained and illustrated on numerous websites that also offer in-depth explanations of how radon affects the human body. Many of these sites also offer supplies for radon mitigation if you find your home has unacceptable levels. Our basement, for example, had eight times the acceptable level!

Acceptable isnt really safe; there is no acceptable level of radon exposure: its just a number bureaucrats have decided on based on the estimated costs of correcting the problem in all affected homes.

In the U.S. there is a greater public awareness of the health risks associated with radon (between 20,000 and 22,000 people die annually from radon-induced lung cancer) and realtors there are required to perform a radon test before a home can be sold. Radon levels are included in the home sale disclosure statement.

Radon is a big problem but is one that can be corrected if people will test their homes and if necessary take steps to correct the problem.

Radon test kits come in short-term, long-term and continuous monitoring models, the results of which are returned in a few months at the most. These tests cost about $15 and can be purchased at Home Hardware or Walmart. The continuous monitoring model costs $130 U.S. and can be purchased online.

Because ones home is supposed to be a safe haven and because our senses cannot detect radon, it is easy to ignore this insidious threat, but I urge you to test your home your life or the life of a loved one may depend on it.

Dorothy Wardwell