Over 400 St. Andrews, NB Residents Join Testing Initiative to Combat Radon: Canada's Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

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Over 400 St. Andrews, NB Residents Join Testing Initiative to Combat Radon: Canada's Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

One in four homes in New Brunswick has dangerous levels of radon, making it a leading cause of lung cancer, particularly in non-smokers. Right now residents of St. Andrews are taking proactive steps to safeguard their health from this colourless, odorless gas as they participate in a town-wide radon testing initiative. 

Long lines formed at the WC O'Neill Arena last Thursday as residents patiently waited for upwards of 45 minutes to obtain free radon testing kits for their homes and businesses to be a part of a Health Canada-sponsored study. Representatives from NB Lung were on site to walk residents through the process of using the kits. NB Lung President and CEO Melanie Langille, who is also an environmental scientist, made a presentation on radon, which is now available on CHCO's YouTube channel. Langille says New Brunswick's geological composition is rich in uranium, which contributes to elevated radon levels across the province. But why was St. Andrews in particular chosen for the study?

"This is a bit of a pilot project in doing this really high density testing," said Langille. "We were part of another community testing drive in the community of Havelock, and that really came together based on a community want. There was a lady, Angela Stief Lea, in Havelock, who was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer that she found was related to radon. And she did this work herself. She started knocking on her neighbours' doors. She said, 'My house is high in radon. I want you to test yours too.' And so we caught wind of that and said, how can we help? How can we help here? And so we had a bit of a community fundraising drive to be able to supply lots of individuals in that community with test kits. And so we're super excited that Health Canada took notice of that endeavour. They were able to throw in some kits to that endeavour as well. They said,' Let's try it again. Let's try another really high density within a community.' And St Andrews was chosen. It's not because it's particularly high risk. It was just another high density small community in New Brunswick." 

Ever since Angela Sief Lea shared her story of radon exposure leading to lung cancer, there has been increased demand for radon tests in New Brunswick. If you don't live in the St. Andrews area and aren't eligible for a free kit, NB Lung sells them on their website for $60. But what happens if you do detect elevated levels of radon in your home? Langille says there are eight contractors in New Brunswick certified to mitigate radon, and it generally costs between $2000 to $5000.

""Really what it comes down to is a certified contractor can come into your house and put a device in that's going to take all that gas that's coming up towards the bottom of your foundation and ventilate it outside," said Langille. "So in new homes, the national building code actually requires a rough in. So there's pipes underneath your floor so that if you find high levels of radon, you can connect those pipes to something that's going to go outside. And depending on the level of radon, maybe just a passive vent is going to be fine. Other ones need a fan to suck out more of that gas and get it outside. So I get lots of factors at play, but when I talk to the certified radon mitigators, they say they can generally do the repair work in a home in a day."

Over 400 radon test kits were given out at the WC O'Neill Arena and NB Lung provided the town with another 100 kits due to additional demand. The kits will be collected in about 120 days' time and critical data from this initiative will enhance our understanding of radon levels in New Brunswick communities and help protect St. Andrews residents in the process. 

Finally, the WC O'Neill Arena has been an epicentre of activity this past week culminating in the annual Kiwanis Costume Carnival on Sunday. Dozens of little ones and their families came out to skate, win prizes, and try their hand in the famous money jar. The carnival has been an annual tradition for local families for generations with the St. Andrews Kiwanis Club organizing and sponsoring the free event for over 80 years. 

-Vicki Hogarth, CHCO-TV NewsBreak26, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

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Video Upload Date: February 14, 2024

Charlotte County television is New Brunswick's only source for independent community television. Since 1993, CHCO-TV has been providing  Southwest New Brunswick with locally-produced content made by community it serves.

The mission of CHCO-TV is to promote community media and to encourage, educate and engage residents in Southwestern New Brunswick, to use new media and technology, to improve civic involvement, learn new media skills and enhance the culture, the economy, health and quality of life in New Brunswick.

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