Nova Scotians are encouraged to test their homes this winter for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soils and rocks. “When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and not a concern,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer. “However, in enclosed spaces like homes, it can sometimes accumulate to high levels which can create a health risk. If you’re exposed to elevated levels over many years, you are at increased risk for lung cancer, especially if you are a smoker.” January is an ideal time to test for radon. Because windows and doors are closed, the test gives an accurate measure of how much radon is accumulating in living spaces from soil underneath buildings. Health Canada guidelines recommend that radon in buildings and homes not exceed 200 bequerels per cubic metre. Protecting homes and loved ones is easy and inexpensive. Testing devices, including mail-in laboratory analysis, are available through environmental testing companies or on the Internet for $50 to $100. Health Canada recommends the devices be left in place for at least three months to ensure accuracy of the test. Most radon problems are easily resolved. Homeowners may want to hire a contractor to perform the necessary mitigation or remediation. If a radon test shows levels above 200 bequerels per cubic metre, the following steps can help reduce the radon level: seal all cracks and openings in foundation walls and floors and around pipes and drains paint basement floors and foundation walls with two coats of paint and a sealant renovate existing basement floors, particularly earth floors The province also has a program to test public buildings for radon as part of five-year plan that started in 2006. For more information on radon gas, testing, and the Health Canada guidelines, go to the Department of Environment’s website at www.gov.ns.ca/nse/airlandwater/radon.asp .