Radon in Canadian homes, a public health priority

According to brochures recently dropped by Health Canada in the mailboxes of the Canadian population, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The organization invites us to buy a radon test online at an approximate cost of $ 45 and send it at our expense to a qualified analytical laboratory. As radon has no color, odor or taste, the only way to detect its presence is to measure its concentration. In the event of a concentration exceeding a certain threshold, Health Canada invites us to reduce the radon level by purchasing a mitigation system, the installation price of which varies between $ 2,500 and $ 5,000.

Considering the dangerousness of radon and the concerns it raises for Health Canada, why leave these costs to the taxpayers? We are tenants and move frequently. It is absolutely unrealistic, especially given the current housing crisis in large urban centers, to think that tenants could bear such costs or that homeowners would bear such costs, which are, let’s say it, staggering. In this context, it seems absurd to initiate all these steps and pay the costs, for a considerable part of the Canadian population, considering the income inequalities within it.

The social determinants of health are, however, one of Health Canada’s workhorses, as can be seen from its voluminous documentation on the subject. The organization noted the following determinants in particular: income and social status, education, gender, racialization and racism. These factors imply that the more socially marginalized people are, the healthier they are, while the higher their income, the more this translates into better health. Need we remind you that in Montreal, children born in Westmount can hope to live 10 years longer than those in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve? It is these kinds of discrepancies that have led Michael Marmot, chairman of the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, to argue that “social injustice kills on a massive scale.”

If radon is a real priority for Public Health, the detection and mitigation process should be supported, or at the very least reimbursed, by the federal state. As Health Canada itself argues, lives, both rich and poor, are at stake. It is estimated that 16% of lung cancers are caused by exposure to radon, resulting in more than 3,000 people die every year in the country. It is therefore indefensible to ask individual Canadian households to shoulder such a financial burden. According to Pierre Aïach, renowned specialist in social inequalities in health, these differences are not only unnecessary and unfair, but they are also preventable. Ottawa must take its responsibilities and cover the costs associated with prevention efforts.

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