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Voluntary radon testing inadequate

The earth in Sundre and the surrounding area, as it turns out, has sporadic pockets with a higher propensity of exposure to radon gas.

The earth in Sundre and the surrounding area, as it turns out, has sporadic pockets with a higher propensity of exposure to radon gas.

The naturally occurring phenomenon is the result of scattered deposits of decaying radioactive material that releases the odorless, colourless gas. While harmless in the environment where it almost immediately dilutes in the air, radon can pose a potentially serious health risk when trapped and accumulated in basements.

But while tests on one building’s basement might show extremely low levels well within Health Canada guidelines, a test on a neighbouring property down the road might detect dangerous levels.

The health risk posed is not immediate, and people won’t get sick overnight.

However, long-term exposure to high concentrations of radon can result in a type of lung cancer that’s difficult to treat.

B.C.’s government had no interest in gambling with the lives of kids, and has already enacted a legislative framework making radon tests mandatory for childcare facilities.

Yet for some unfathomable reason, our own provincial government is satisfied that encouraging voluntary testing is an adequate approach to protecting people, including children, who are especially susceptible to health complications from long-term exposure to radon.

This is to us nothing less than shocking.

Spending thousands of dollars on preventive measures like installing mitigation systems today will in the long run save far more than the costly approach of reactively trying to treat people once they’ve already developed a completely preventable case of cancer, which not only represents a higher expense for health care, but also a substantial hit to the economy in terms of lost productivity.

After all, someone who isn’t going through cancer treatment is someone who can still work.

Bill 209: Radon Awareness and Testing Act received royal assent under the previous administration with full bipartisan support — one of those rare moments of unity between two largely ideologically opposed parties.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Dr. Aaron Goodarzi of the Cumming School of Medicine, who expressed concern the act will merely end up collecting dust on a shelf. See pages 6-7 for that story.

We could not agree more, and urge the government to reconsider its position and to make this a priority.

We also invite any of our readers who feel this issue should be taken more seriously to contact the health ministry.

Our children deserve no less.

Simon Ducatel is the Round Up’s editor.