Over the last 3 years the BC Lung Association’s (BCLA) RadonAware Program has been encouraging indoor radon testing in homes, schools and workplaces across the province. Through voluntary testing programs and radon test kits sales, the program has nearly doubled the number of radon test results in residential housing. Our technical specialist, Hugh Roberts, manages radon test data analysis. He recently sat down with RadonAware to talk about the importance of data collection.
Britt: Why is collecting this data so important?
Hugh: Though the medical link between radon and lung cancer is clear, that itself doesn’t save lives. The information we collect helps the BCLA and others focus their time and money to work with communities and individuals who are most at risk. Collecting reliable information also helps inform the policies and regulations surrounding radon. Data collection is an important part of better understanding the radon risks in this province, and finding effective solutions which protect public health.
Britt: How does BCLA collect radon data?
Hugh: We pair a survey with a radon test, delivered either as part of a study or directly to Canadian homeowners when they purchase a radon test. Saying “a survey” sounds simple, but it includes a thorough process of stakeholder and expert involvement. We receive constant feedback which helps guide our revisions to questions, answers, and even survey layout. During our Prince George study of 2,008 homes, we additionally trained outreach workers to carefully understand the intention of each question and to personally guide homeowners through the survey.
Britt: What have you been able to accomplish with this data?
Hugh: Every radon test completed provides valuable information about a home’s radon level and whether or not people need to take action to protect their health and their families. Pairing these results with a survey also helps the BCLA identify or confirm at-risk communities, compare radon levels measured in homes against maps of radon potential in soil, and better understand how people become aware of radon risks and motivated to reduce those risks.
The knowledge we’ve gathered through test data analysis helped drive recent radon protection enhancements now required under the BC Building Code. Most recently, the results of our data analysis work helped identify associations between radon levels and building features, paving the way for more studies about the cause of radon accumulation in people’s homes.
Britt: What more would you like to do?
Hugh: I think the most interesting thing we could do with the data would be to create geomaps, a way of visualizing the data over regional maps. This would provide an easier way to quickly grasp the meaning of our large dataset of radon test results. While the only way to know your radon level is to test, it could be a powerful tool to help people decide how urgent it is to test their home for radon.
Read the full Statistical Analysis of Radon Concentration, Home Characteristics, and Homeowner Intent Report here.