Yukon will make radon testing and mitigation a licensing requirement for daycares and day homes, the territory's health minister says.

That would make Yukon the first jurisdiction in Canada to require that of child-care facilities.

"Yukon is leading the change, leading the way," said Minister Pauline Frost.

"We've heard from Yukoners, we've heard from parents, and over the course of the last 12 months, we've really looked at what are the options, and what can we possibly do in the Yukon," Frost said. 

Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released from the ground, water and some building materials. When it accumulates in an enclosed space, it can become a health hazard.

Pauline Frost

Health Minister Pauline Frost says Yukon will follow Health Canada guidelines for determining acceptable radon levels at child care facilities. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

According to Health Canada, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. On average, about 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada can be attributed to radon exposure.

Last winter, Yukon tested for radon at all of the territory's schools, but not daycares or day homes. That prompted the opposition NDP to push for mandatory testing at all child-care facilities.

Daycares and day homes "should be the best places and the healthiest places," NDP leader Liz Hanson said. 

Frost says the government will follow Health Canada guidelines for determining acceptable radon levels. She says officials have already contacted all of the territory's 57 child-care facilities, "both by telephone and in writing," to tell them of the plan.

It's not clear when the new requirement will come into effect. Frost says that will be determined over the coming months.

"There's some exploratory discussions happening right now," she said.

With files from Alexandra Byers