Quebec strategy for protecting public health against radon
Members of the scientific community widely share the view that, for most people, exposure to radon in the home is a cause of lung cancer that can be controlled. Exposure to radon that is present in the air of dwellings ranks second as a leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, and ranks first among non-smokers. It is estimated that approximately 10% of all lung cancer deaths are linked to radon exposure. In June 2007, following the publication of scientific study results, Health Canada amended the Canadian guideline governingradon levels in indoor air by lowering the acceptable concentration from 800 to 200 becquerels/square meter (Bq/m3 ).
As a result, the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) began developing a Quebec strategy for protecting public health against radon , with the help of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and several departments and organizations belonging to the Comité intersectoriel québécois sur le radon (CIQR), including: the ministère de la Famille et des Aînés (MFA) with respect to day-care centres; the ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) for educational institutions; the Corporation d’hébergement du Québec (CHQ) for health institutions; the Société immobilière du Québec (SIQ); the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ); the Régie du bâtiment (RBQ) and the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST). Health Canada and the Quebec Lung Association are also represented within the CIQR.
Essentially designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer caused by exposure to radon present in the air of the province’s dwellings, Quebec’s radon-control strategy fits in with the objectives of the MSSS’s 2003-2012 National Public Health Program. Based on scientific-opinion recommendations for radon, produced by the INSPQ in 2004, it is designed to mesh with the action plan adopted by Health Canada as a means of implementing the new Canadian radon guideline.
The objectives of Quebec’s radon-control strategy are as follows:
- make the population and public building managers aware of the problems caused by radon;
- map the spatial distribution of radon in Quebec by using geological, geochemichal and radiometric radon presence indicators, and by performing direct measurements of radon levels in buildings;
- promote preventive measures and, whenever necessary, steps designed to mitigate radon infiltration in buildings, both public and private.
Working with the MSSS and the CIQR, the Agences de la santé et des services sociaux Directions régionales de santé publique will be called upon to adopt appropriate measures designed to facilitate implementation of the radon-control strategy in their territory, especially through targeted interventions in areas at higher risk of radon exposure.
Essentially trans-sectoral in nature, the strategy is intended to be applied in close consultation with the departments and agencies within the CIQR. To this end, the various sectors involved will have to develop their own action plans, in order to contribute to the overall success of this vast operation for protecting Quebec’s public health against lung cancer caused by radon, while ensuring its sustainability.
Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux
Direction de la protection de la santé publique
Quebec, October 20, 2008