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Peachland couple warns of high radon levels in Okanagan homes

Jessica and Joe Klein's house in Peachland currently has low radon levels.

But not long ago, that wasn't the case.

After hearing about the danger of high radon levels, Jessica convinced Joe to have their 110-year-old home tested.

The Kleins hung several test pucks throughout various areas in the house for six months. Then the couple sent the pucks away to be analyzed.

The results were shocking.

In certain areas of the house levels of the radioactive gas were as high as 55 picocuries. Health Canada states on its website that anything over five picocuries can pose a health risk.

"We knew we needed to do something about our home," said Jessica.

The Kleins spent about $2,000 to cleanse their house. They retested for radon after the mitigation work was done and found the levels had dropped to 0.3 picocuries.

The couple agreed the work was worth it.

“We’re noticing health benefits already—that’s in less than a year,” said Joe.

Health Canada defines radon as a radioactive gas formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water.

It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. It's not much of a concern outdoors, but can pose a threat if high levels accumulate in an enclosed space.

According to the British Columbia Lung Association, radon gas decays to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs, the process of decay continues, creating more radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy.

That energy can be absorbed by nearby lung tissues, damaging lung cells. The damaged cells could potentially result in cancer when they reproduce.

A recent statement released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency suggested radon caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires and handguns combined.

Greg Baytalan, an air quality specialist with Interior Health, said there is a clear lack of knowledge among many residents regarding the dangers associated with radon gas.

Baytalan mitigated his own house in Glenmore after discovering high levels and said it is important for everyone to test their dwellings and do the same if necessary.

“You’re breathing this gas in and these particles are going to get stuck in your lung—then they’re with you for life,” Baytalan said.

In the early 90s, changes were made to the building code to ensure new construction conforms with radon control measures.

Peter Chataway, who does architectural design and is well-versed in risks associated with radon gas, said homeowners should still conduct tests regardless of whether the house is new or old.

“The B.C. Ministry of Health recommends that every house in the interior of B.C. be tested,” said Chataway.

But with a price tag of up to $3,000 to mitigate, Baytalan said some may not be willing to address the problem.

“You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it. People would rather view it as it’s not there,” said Baytalan.

The Kleins have taught a few others the importance of testing for radon gas. They are currently lending out their kit to friends so they can test their homes.

For more information on radon, visit healthcanada.gc.ca/radon or call 1-800-622-6232. To obtain a $30 test kit, call 1-800-655-5864 (LUNG).

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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