Radon is an imperceptible radioactive gas which builds up in enclosed spaces, like basements; about 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths are due to radon exposure.
Because it's impossible to detect without proper equipment, the South Central Cancer Resource (SCCR) is supplying radon test kits as part of a new program to help limit the risks of cancer to people in the area. SCCR will also reimburse people the lab fees due after sending the completed kit away to be verified by experts.
"We've done probably 15-20 systems and the demand is still growing," said Gord Titchkosky, a certified mitigation professional with Polar Plumbing and Heating in Winkler.
Titchkosky completed the certification because he noticed a need to provide the testing and removal service in the area, and he realized the benefits of removing a
substance which people are largely unaware of.
"Anything we can do to reduce cancer, I wanted to be a part of that," he said. Several of the homes Titchokosky tested have been far over the permitted levels of radon gas, 200 bequerels, some reaching ten times what's allowed by Health Canada.
The radon presentation was delivered during the SCCR's annual general meeting Wednesday night in Morden. Where it was also officially announced that Norma Hildebrand, who has worked with the charity for five years, was retiring and this was her last meeting.
Hildebrand is the administrative resource coordinator, working one-on-one with people with cancer. She said that even in a short five years, her job, and the entire organization, has shifted focus.
"It's changed massively," said Hildebrand following the AGM. She added that when she first started, SCCR was organizing a lot of health fairs and emphasizing sun-safety. Whereas now, she spends dedicated time one client at a time listening to their concerns about their cancer.
"Sometimes people put on a brave face for their family and their friends, and with us they don't have to," she said.
One of the main programs SCCR runs is a driving program, where volunteer drivers chauffeur people with cancer to and from their treatments into Winnipeg. Last year, 1327 people were driven to appointments which they may not have been able to attend otherwise. The number of trips includes occasions where drivers need to spend the night in Winnipeg.
During the 2015-2016 financial year, this transportation service cost the SCCR $115,205. However, the final numbers for the charity show it's well within the black, reporting a surplus of $50,000.