Nova Scotia

Radon detectors in high demand at Nova Scotia libraries

Rental program between Nova Scotia public libraries and the Lung Association of Nova Scotia started in 2017. So far, more than 1,100 people signed up to check out radon detectors from libraries.

More than 1,100 people signed up to check out radon detectors from libraries

Radon detectors available to check out from Nova Scotia public libraries. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

One of the most highly sought after items at Nova Scotia public libraries are radon detectors.

The libraries, along with the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, made dozens of the devices that detect the radioactive gas, which is known to cause lung cancer, available to borrow a year ago. In Halifax alone, there are still about 560 people on the wait-list.

"The program has been exceptionally popular. The library said it has been one of their most popular special collections ever," Michelle Donaldson, a spokesperson for the association, told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon.

Radon is naturally occurring and formed by the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. It is typically not a concern when released from the ground, but sometimes it can accumulate in high levels in enclosed spaces, such as houses, and become a health risk.

Donaldson said more than 1,100 people signed up to take advantage of the digital radon detectors and more than 500 people have borrowed them. ​She said the association is donating 20 more detectors this week to keep up with the demand.

"We are very pleased that radon is becoming more of a topic people are aware of, that people know that they have to test their homes in order to keep their families safe," Donaldson said.

Michelle Donaldson, a spokesperson for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, holding a radon detector. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Donaldson said radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Nova Scotia and the leading cause of lung cancer in Nova Scotia for non-smokers. She said 120 cases of lung cancer in Nova Scotia last year were attributed to radon gas.

The devices available for rent at the library are not intended to replace long-term detectors, which the association sells for $40, Donaldson said.

"Some people are a little bit hesitant to spend that $40 not really knowing what the result is going to be, so [detectors at the library are] a great way for people to get a bit of an indicator of whether or not they have radon in their home," she said.

Since the program started, the association has heard from people who have had "alarming readings" on the radon detectors. In those cases, Donaldson said the lung association recommends getting a long-term test.

Homeowners with high radon readings can take various steps, such as using certain ventilation techniques and sealing cracks in the foundation, floors and around pipes and drains.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon