Radon testing to be conducted on all on-reserve homes

The Six Nations Environment Task Force hopes to be testing homes in the community for the carcinogenic gas radon beginning in April 2022.

“We’ve heard many health concerns from our community members, many environmental concerns, one being radon,” said Six Nations Coun. Michelle Bomberry and principal investigator. “We actually did some radon testing at businesses back in (2015/2016). From there, we did detect there was one business that had higher levels than normal. A mitigation plan was put in place and that was remedied.”

Bomberry said, “What we’re looking to do moving forward is test individual homes because we didn’t do that five years ago. Radon is linked to lung cancer. What we’re doing is submitting an application in partnership with Six Nations Housing to obtain funds to train technicians along with students so they can job shadow so they can go in and do this testing in the homes.”

The application came before Six Nations Elected Council at a general meeting last Tuesday, where it was approved to send to Indigenous Services Canada.

After the funds are obtained, the application and study have to go through the Six Nations Research Ethics Committee before the study can commence.

The task force is looking at testing about 100 homes on the reserve.

“We need to be doing a lot more with our community with regard to the environmental contaminants that we see,” said Bomberry.

Rod Whitlow, the lead for the First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program, said, “It’s a long-running program through Indigenous Services Canada. It’s an ongoing national pot of money that deals with First Nations communities south of 60. It deals mostly with environmental contaminants and pollutants.”

Health Canada and the scientific community have determined that radon gas is the number two cause of lung cancer, he said.

Testing would start on about 100 homes after April 1, 2022.

“That would give us a good snapshot.”

He said the threshold is 200 Bqs (Becquerels) per cubic meter. A Becquerel is a unit of measure that captures the emission of radiation per second. Homes with higher levels than 200 Bq per cubic meter would require mitigation.

The cost of mitigation wasn’t included in the proposal approved by council.

“If we do find homes with higher radon than the Health Canada guideline, then we would submit a subsequent proposal to deal with the mitigation,” said Whitlow.

The task force hopes to hire two local people to help with the testing after taking an online course.

The one-year study will monitor homes that have consented to participate. Monitoring can take about three days.

Radon is produced from a breakdown of uranium in soils. It’s also found in gypsum.

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