North

Radon levels above Health Canada guidelines in 21 Yukon government buildings, tests show

Twenty-one Yukon government buildings have radon levels over Health Canada's guideline for public buildings, according to test results published on the Yukon government's health and safety website.

Long-term exposure to a high level of radioactive gas can increase risk of lung cancer

A radon testing kit from the Saskatchewan Lung Association. (Mike Zartler/CBC News )

Twenty-one Yukon government buildings have radon levels over Health Canada's guideline for public buildings, according to test results published on the Yukon government's health and safety website.

Radon is a radioactive gas that's produced when uranium breaks down in nature. It's odourless and colourless.

According to Health Canada, being exposed to "high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels."

Radon can enter buildings through "any place it finds an opening where the house contacts the soil," according to Health Canada.

According to the Yukon government's radon management guideline, the tests were to last for a minimum of three months and were to be completed "during the heating season (October to April) when windows are closed."

The first year of the radon testing program focused on 164 buildings across the territory, including 24-hour residential care facilities, detention centres, schools, health centres and staff housing.

The highest reading was at a staff housing unit in Watson Lake, at over five times the Health Canada threshold. The next highest was a staff housing unit in Pelly Crossing.

Three schools were over the acceptable level: Christ the King and Holy Family in Whitehorse, and Eliza Van Bibber in Pelly Crossing.

Two buildings are scheduled for remediation by April 2019, with the rest by 2020. The cost of testing and remediation will fall to each department responsible for the building.

The next round of testing will happen this winter and will focus on weigh stations and EMS stations.

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