Health Canada rejects claim that new radon gas standards put Canadians at risk

The association representing Canada’s homebuilders is claiming that Ottawa’s first-ever set of guidelines to reduce cancer-causing radon gas in basements is itself dangerous.

“This standard is being rushed to publication while there remain many unresolved issues which could result in severe and immediate health problems, and even death,” Kevin Lee, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), warned Canada’s health minister last August.

“Moving forward with the publication of the standard in its present state – before necessary research has been completed, and without addressing serious technical issues – poses a significant risk to the health of Canadians and the integrity of their homes.”

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can seep into basements and well-water. It has been blamed for 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada.

Radon gas – odourless and colourless – is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking. In 1985, it was found to be a health risk in homes, seeping through cracks in foundations and walls, or through gaps around pipes. Radon also can enter the water supply, especially well-water.

Since 2014, Health Canada has led a radon-mitigation committee of 26 regulators, health authorities and businesses – including the CHBA – in the work of drafting the first national standard for reducing the threat of radon gas in homes.

Lee wrote to Philpott,  “Your immediate action is required to ensure that Canadians are not positioned to rely on a flawed standard – a standard that could put their health, lives and homes at risk.”

“None of the outstanding issues that you have raised poses significant risks to the health, well-being, or the property of Canadians,” Tim Singer, a director-general at Health Canada, wrote to Lee on September.