P.E.I. has one of the lowest levels of radon contamination in homes in the country, but one Island woman is warning people should still get their homes tested.
'Crazy high levels of radon, lung cancer in somebody who hasn't smoked for a long time.' - Lynn Douglas
CBC News has obtained thousands of never-released Health Canada testing results that show radon gas levels in homes across the country. Radon occurs naturally in soil and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.
P.E.I. and Nunavut have the lowest levels of radon contamination in Canada. On P.E.I. just four of the 113 homes tested had readings above Health Canada's guideline of 200 Bq/m3.
But that doesn't mean Islanders are safe, warns Lynn Douglas of Hunter River.
"There are at least pockets of serious radon problems on this Island," said Douglas.
"Most of the public is not aware of the problem."
'A smoking gun'
Douglas wasn't aware of any problem until her husband, Andy Wells, died of lung cancer in 2012. He hadn't smoked in 30 years. Douglas decided to test their home near Hunter River for radon, and found levels five times higher than Health Canada's guideline.
"You can't prove it, but it's a smoking gun," she said.
"Crazy high levels of radon, lung cancer in somebody who hasn't smoked for a long time."
The radon readings in Douglas' home now are negligible. She installed a ventilation system in her basement that prevents radon from concentrating inside.
The latest version of the National Building Code requires a similar system in new homes, but on P.E.I. the code only applies in Charlottetown, Summerside and Stratford.
Douglas thinks that needs to change and that public education about radon needs to improve.
"It's not an expensive or complicated thing to inform people. It's certainly less expensive than treating lung cancer," she said.
Radon is difficult to predict, she said. Her son's house, next door to her own, also had high radon levels, but a neighbour's house across the street did not.
Radon testing kits are available on line for as little as $35.
For mobile device users: Have you had your home tested for radon?