Five hundred radon detection kits will be delivered across the province as part of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia's Take Action on Radon program.

The association says radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking; 120 out of 730 lung cancer deaths in Nova Scotia were attributed to radon.

Radon is a natural gas that you can't see, taste or smell — which is why the association says it's important people test their homes.

"It's a radioactive gas that's around us naturally everywhere," health initiatives director Robert MacDonald said.

"When you're exposed to it at a high concentration level for an extended period of time in an enclosed area, that's when it tends to become dangerous to someone's health."

More awareness needed

Radon gas can seep into your home in a number of ways: through foundation cracks, packed earth floors and construction seams or between floor tiles and gaps around pipes, support posts, crawl spaces, drains and sump holes.

"The awareness level is not what it needs to be in the province and across the country for that matter," MacDonald said.

"With this free giveaway, it kind of shines some light on to it and people ask questions about it."

Radon detector

Radon kits the lung association will be distributing will can be sent back to the lab for testing after three months. (Submitted by Caitlin Gray)

The lung association delivered 200 free radon detection kits to people in Tantallon last year — an area it said has high levels of radon.

Of the homes reported, 62 per cent reported were above the guideline.

The average test result was 380 bq/m3. In Canada the recommended radon level is 200 bq/m3.

'Tremendous success'

Following the pilot program, approximately 400 more people from the area bought a kit, MacDonald said.

"It was a tremendous success," he said.

"It also encouraged people to install depressurization systems into their home. Basically that is just some piping and a fan that sucks the radon out the ground before it gets to your home and then it dissipates out into the atmosphere."

People should put the kit in the lowest lying room of the home that's used for four hours or more a day. He said that doesn't necessarily mean it should be put in the basement.

"If you're only down there [in the basement] once a week doing laundry then no, because [radon] becomes dangerous when you're breathing it in," he said.

10 communities to get kits

The kits start to work as soon as they're taken out of the package. It's crucial, MacDonald said, the home owner puts the length of time the kit was being used. The long term kits the lung association will be distributing can be sent to a lab for testing after 90 days of use. 

The kits will be delivered to 10 communities across Nova Scotia: Antigonish, Bridgewater, Hammonds Plains, Liverpool,  New Glasgow, Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Truro, Wolfville and Yarmouth. The free kits in Hammonds Plains have been claimed, but kits also can be purchased online. 

The first 50 homes to register for a kit in each community will get a free radon detection kit. People can register by calling 902-443-8141 or sending an email to takeactiononradon@ns.lung.ca.