Towards a Future Free of Radon in the Residential Built Environment

University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine and EvictRadon

Total Funded: $325,000
Location: , Alberta

As of 2020, long-term radon gas inhalation in Alberta is responsible for one new case of lung cancer every 23 hours. Exposure to radon, which is radioactive and DNA-damaging, is overwhelmingly something that happens within the residential built environment. Unfortunately, lung cancer remains incurable, with nine of every ten people losing their lives to it within only two years of diagnosis. 1 in 5 people diagnosed with lung cancer in Alberta have never smoked, and the frequency of non-smoker lung cancer is increasing. Exposure to radon (and the extraordinary burden of disease associated with it) is entirely driven by our built environment and is preventable. Actual prevention requires concerted action in terms of knowledge generation, knowledge implementation, and, effective education and communication across sectors.

To meet the projected population needs of 2050, we must build 70% more housing over the next 30 years. The urgent need of this work is, that if this future 70% housing is built with yet even higher radon (as our projections indicate will happen without intervention), this built-environment-driven public health crisis will worsen. The price of this in lives and healthcare costs will be staggering but is avoidable. Finally, the deadline for changes to the 2025 Canada Build Code is fast approaching in April 2023. There is an opportunity to influence that code in a way that potentially removes the issue of radon from future Canadian property inventories.

The project goal is to reduce the burden of radon-induced lung cancer stemming from exposure within the Albertan residential property environment, ensuring that this health issue does not interfere with residential real estate transactions, and improving the equity and inclusivity of public health investments in radon reduction for younger Albertans, rural Albertans, and Albertans aligned in the real estate, architectural and resource sectors.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Legacy Grants program supports distinctive and high-impact projects which drive transformational long-term change to advance the real estate industry and real estate across Alberta.