Radon action guide for municipalities: Reduction actions

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Planning for radon

Municipal governments regularly engage in long-term proactive planning, as found in:

Not only do municipalities have the power to include radon in these plans, but doing so follows from existing municipal roles of planning for housing and healthy built environments. More detail on the way radon can be included in established municipal planning frameworks is outlined in Radon action in municipal law.

Radon planning is well established in many countries. Municipalities can begin to put in place many of the core features of a Radon Action Plan, including:

In later sections, this guide describes in more detail specific actions municipalities can take, either as part of a comprehensive plan or individually.

Developing radon plans should include collaboration, consultation, and partnerships. Municipalities should particularly reach out to independent organizations that have a strong presence at the local level and can play an important role concerning radon. Health authorities are likely to have significant knowledge about radon and be prepared to engage in education campaigns and site investigations. School boards can ensure testing and mitigation in educational spaces. Local libraries can lend out radon detection devices (akin to book loans). Non-profit health associations may also have special insight into the problem and lend grassroots support. One possible approach here is to form a Radon Working Group—a multi-stakeholder task force that brings together radon stakeholders including staff from:

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Education and awareness

Developing a radon outreach program is a good first step for governments to take, because awareness is a precondition for action. Good ways to start building momentum can include:

Ideally, materials will:

Health Canada has developed many radon outreach materials that can be used and adapted as required. Many local governments have put up radon websites.

Outreach, testing and government operations provides a list of:


An effective way to draw attention to radon is through civic declarations. For instance, many provinces have taken the lead from Health Canada and the Canadian Lung Association and declared November "Radon Action Month." This aligns with the start of winter as the ideal time to begin long-term radon testing. This type of awareness campaign has been used by some provinces and municipalities.

Ideally, educational campaigns are combined with other initiatives to maximize reach, impact and ensure knowledge is translated into action. Some successful Canadian campaigns have included well-known players from the Canadian Football League and home improvement personalities with their own television shows. Rather than simply giving people knowledge, some programs provide ways for the public to gain hands-on experience, such as through sample community testing initiatives and "citizen science" engagement programs. Other initiatives discussed in this Guide will also have a strong educational component and subsidies, and new bylaws.

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Testing, mapping and databases

Testing for radon concentrations in residences, businesses and other indoor public spaces is an important step in radon action. For individual residents, businesses and occupiers of buildings, this indicates whether mitigation is needed.

Local governments can consider selling test kits as a way to increase testing and collect radon data in their communities. Promoting radon testing and making it available through municipal channels validates and adds credibility to this important issue, resulting in increased action by community members. A further advantage of this approach is that the agency selling the test kit can ask buyers to agree up front for test data to be shared with the municipality.

Municipalities may also be able to find ways to reduce the price relative to commercial vendors, such as through:

At a municipal scale, it's important to know radon prevalence, because in some regions much greater percentages of buildings have a high radon problem compared to other regions. Individuals will respond better to health prevention messaging if they can translate the risks into their own personal experience, such as by knowing if radon is very common where they live.

Community testing can help municipalities characterize local radon prevalence, and for relatively high radon areas, send a strong signal of the need to take action. This can help professionals such as realtors, building inspectors, and employers be alert to local radon risks. Community testing provides data that can support important policy and regulatory change, such as:

In some provinces, such as Ontario, the building code requires radon mitigation systems "where methane or radon gases are known to be a problem."Reference 2 Community testing becomes a way to establish whether radon levels are higher, and the community can then take steps to enforce radon requirements. In British Columbia, the building code provides that municipalities can take additional steps to be added to the list of places where radon levels are higher and mitigation is needed.Reference 3 For further resources on community testing, see Section 2 of the Appendix.

Radon testing also contributes to improving databases and risk mapping, which helps research on radon and provides easy visual cues that radon is an issue. Find a list of existing Canadian and international radon database and mapping initiatives in Section 2 of the Appendix.

There are a variety of programs to stock digital radon monitors in public libraries, which allows participants to check them out (akin to book loans) and conduct a radon test at home. Currently there are radon library lending programs in:

These programs can help people with limited funds, or who want an initial introduction to radon. These programs should be considered a screening test only with a primary goal of raising awareness about radon.

Health Canada recommends a long-term test of at least 3 months during the heating season. This isn't always possible with the library lending programs, but these programs can help people understand radon and can motivate them to conduct long-term tests. Municipalities can work with libraries, supporting lending programs or the distribution of long-term test kits to patrons/community members.

Health Canada, in collaboration with provincial lung associations and radon experts, has developed a Radon Library Lending Program Guide to provide libraries across the country with support, education, and useful resources to run an effective and successful radon monitor lending program.

Outreach, testing and government operations includes further resources on:

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Reference 1

As reported to authors as current practice by the Province of Nova Scotia by John Drage, Senior Geologist/Hydrogeologist, Geoscience & Mines Branch, Department of Lands and Forestry, Nova Scotia

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Reference 2

Ontario Building Code Section and Supplementary Standard SB-9.

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Reference 3

BC Building Code, 2018 Division B, sec. (2)

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