Why should I test my child care centre?
When people are exposed to radon over a long period of time, there is a chance that they may develop lung cancer due to this exposure. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. Health Canada estimates that about 16% of lung cancer cases are attributable to radon.
The health risks from radon depends on how much radon one is exposed to and the length of time of that exposure. Even though there is limited data suggesting greater sensitivity to radon in children, child care environments can contribute significantly to a child’s cumulative lifetime exposure to radon.
Radon exists to some extent in most buildings. The question is, how much is in your child care centre? You can’t see, taste or smell it. The only way to know if your child care centre has an elevated level of radon is to test. If high levels are found, it can be easily reduced. If it is low, then you have peace of mind in confirming that staff and children at your child care centre are safe.
Guidelines for radon levels in Canada
Radon level in a building is measured in units of Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). This unit represents the amount of radioactivity per given volume of air. For instance, one Bq/m3 represents one radioactive disintegration per second per cubic metre of air.
Health Canada has developed a recommendation, sometimes referred to as an action level, which refers to the radon level at which remedial action (mitigation) is recommended. In Canada, the action level is 200 Bq/m3.
This means that if radon level in your facility is 200Bq/m3 or above after a long-term test lasting more than 90 days, it is recommended that you to take action to reduce it (radon mitigation).
Health Canada has developed guidelines on how and where to place tests, and what tests to use. Radon can vary greatly within a short period of time. For this reason, the best way to test for radon is by using a long term test of 90 days or more, as recommended by Health Canada.
Testing can be done by hiring a certified radon measurement professional or by using a DIY kit to do it yourself. Should the new radon testing legislation require an objective test conducted by a third party, child care centres will be required to hire a certified radon professional for testing.
Typically testing involves placing a detector in the lowest occupied area of a building for at least 90 days and having the detector analyzed by a certified professional or an approved lab. Radon’s adverse health effects result from exposure over a long period of time, so there is no need to panic while conducting a long-term test. Further, the tests do not have any chemicals or materials inside which would be harmful to children if knocked over or touched.
What if radon levels in my centre are high?
Health Canada has set a national action level of 200 Bq/m³ (Becquerel of radon per cubic meter of air).
If your centre has a confirmed radon level of 200 Bq/m³ or above after a long-term test, remedial action is recommended to reduce radon levels. The price range for mitigation for a single family home will be typically anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 but may vary for both typical homes and other types of facilities depending on the characteristics of your building, as well as any performance features that will be installed.
Depending on the business structure of your child care facility, you may be able to write-off some or all of these costs against your taxes. Be sure to consult a qualified accountant for advice. The bottom line is that high radon levels can be easily fixed.