Health Canada rejects claim that new radon gas standards put Canadians at risk

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Late last year, Ottawa published for the first time a guidance document on how to rid homes of dangerous radon gas. CBC News has learned the document was published over the strenuous objections of the Canadian Home Builders' Association, which said the mitigation measures might themselves pose health risks to Canadians. Health Canada disagrees.

The association representing Canada’s homebuilders is claiming that Ottawa’s first-ever set of guidelines to reduce cancer-causing radon gas in basements is itself dangerous.

“This standard is being rushed to publication while there remain many unresolved issues which could result in severe and immediate health problems, and even death,” Kevin Lee, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), warned Canada’s health minister last August.

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“Moving forward with the publication of the standard in its present state – before necessary research has been completed, and without addressing serious technical issues – poses a significant risk to the health of Canadians and the integrity of their homes.”

Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, warned Canada’s health minister last August about alleged problems with a new standard on mitigating radon gas levels in Canadian homes.(twitter.com)

Lee was writing to warn then-Health Minister Jane Philpott against the pending publication of a guidance document on how to mitigate radon gas content in low-rise residential buildings.

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can seep into basements and well-water. It has been blamed for 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths in Canada.

Since 2014, Health Canada has led a radon-mitigation committee of 26 regulators, health authorities and businesses – including the CHBA – in the work of drafting the first national standard for reducing the threat of radon gas in homes.

The standard was published late last year without any changes, despite the fierce objections of the homebuilders group.

‘Immediate action’

“Your immediate action is required to ensure that Canadians are not positioned to rely on a flawed standard – a standard that could put their health, lives and homes at risk,” Lee told Philpott.

CBC News obtained a copy of Lee’s letter, and related documents, under the Access to Information Act. The letter was also copied to three other federal ministers.

A spokesman for the CHBA confirmed to CBC News that the association still objects to the new standards, arguing that the solutions themselves pose risks.

“CHBA remains concerned about the unresolved issues, such as the risks of back-drafting from

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