A new Health Canada study has found radon levels are much higher than previously thought and New Brunswick has one of the highest percentages in the country.
Health Canada tested 14,000 homes across the country over a period of two years and it found that 20 per cent of homes in New Brunswick were above the recommended levels.
The recommended level of radon exposure by Health Canada is 200 Bq/m3 (becquerels per cubic metre) and 18.7 per cent levels in New Brunswick were found to be between 200 and 600 Bq/m3.
Health Canada also found 6.1 per cent of New Brunswick homes had levels of 600 Bq/m3 or higher — the largest percentage in the country above 600 Bq/m3. Only the Yukon came close to that number at 5.8 per cent.
"The last place you'd expect to find a radioactive gas would be in your house," said Victor Nowicki, president of Arc Geobac Group.
Radon is colourless and odourless, so the only way to find out is to test.
"It's a matter of knowledge for people and we are trying to educate people so that they do test their homes," he said.
Nowicki's been testing radon for three years, and says lately business is picking up.
"More frequently, two to three calls a week. Six or eight months ago, it may have been once a week, so knowledge of radon is just getting out to the public," he said.
Radon been a problem in New Brunswick for years.
The Health Canada study also suggests that consequences of radon contamination are more serious than previously believed.
Health officials now believe it’s responsible for 16 per cent of lung cancer cases in Canada.
Fortunately it’s not hard to find out if you're at risk.
Since 2008, the New Brunswick Lung Association has sent out 630 radon test kits. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer — right after smoking.
"The thing people don’t realize is radon is everywhere, we are breathing it right now," said Roshini Kassie, environmental program manager for the lung association.
"The key is make sure you aren’t breathing very high concentrations of it over a long period of time."
The lung association says that everyone should buy a kit to test their own home.
"Everyone is going to have radon, the only way to know you have the high level is to test," Kassie said.
If levels are high, fixing it can be as simple as installing a vent or increasing airflow.