Over 600,000 homes across Canada are estimated to have above-guideline radon levels. That’s a lot of houses where lung cancer risk is elevated. It turns out many of those homes are in the ridings of 93 Members of Parliament with sixteen of those ridings of particular concern. But the elevated risk is nation-wide.
CELA has written to all federal MPsseeking support for a radon mitigation tax credit. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It can be easily corrected via federally-approved mitigation techniques. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in soil and rock. It is odourless, colourless and tasteless. It can only be detected via testing. When left undetected and enclosed in homes or buildings, radon is a proven cause of lung cancer. The science is very clear.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, annually responsible for 16% of lung cancer deaths or about 3300 people every year. Health Canada’s cross-Canada survey of radon levels is an authoritative source for the figure of over 600,000 homes estimated to have radon levels above the Canadian radon guideline of 200 Bequerels per cubic metre (Bq/m³).
Health Canada’s results are reported by provincially-defined district health regions. We compared those health regions with federal riding boundaries and found:
- Half of all federal ridings with above-guideline radon levels
- 93 federal ridings where more than 10% of homes have above-guideline radon levels
- 16 federal ridings where more than 20% of homes have above-guideline radon levels
We have created a list of the ridings with more than 10% and 20% above-guideline radon levels, respectively. We asked all MPs to check if they are on this list. While we want every MP to support a tax credit, we think these 93 should be especially concerned and want to help make radon mitigation affordable for all Canadians.
Despite a lot of excellent public outreach work by Health Canada and others, most people are unaware of either the cancer risk from radon or what needs to be done about it. And mitigation can be expensive. That’s why we believe a federal tax credit is:
- The logical next step in Canada’s impressive National Radon Program
- A strong signal that Canadians need to take this important issue more seriously
- A measure that will help make radon mitigation more affordable
We also calculated the financial implications. At a minimum, a tax credit will be revenue-neutral. More likely, it will result in net tax revenues to both the federal government and the provinces.
We estimate that an aggressive program to mitigate 80% of above-guideline homes within five years would result in a net annual benefit in the order of $1.6M to $9.8M in federal tax revenues and $8.2M to $49.7M to the provinces.
We also calculated the more modest revenues arising if 20% of above-guideline homes are mitigated over five years.
Additional benefits will arise with job creation for mitigation firms as well as long-term savings by avoiding the direct and indirect health care costs of lung cancer. Our detailed calculations are on-line here: http://www.cela.ca/publications/radon-tax-credit
At CELA we continue to give high priority to this issue for three key reasons:
- Radon is a proven cancer risk
- Large numbers of people are directly affected and at risk
- The health outcome – death from cancer – is very serious
Again this year, a recommendation for a radon tax credit is included in the annual set of recommendations from the Green Budget Coalition, both for homeowners as well as small landlords who are an important part of the rental housing market and often provide units in basements where radon levels can be higher.
We urge all Canadians to write to Finance Minister Bill Morneau to ask for this tax credit in the upcoming federal budget. Consult our list of MPs who represent ridings with either 10% or 20% of homes at above-guideline radon levels. Does your MP represent one of these ridings? Send them an email.
We’ll also be asking Provincial Premiers and Finance Ministers to support a radon mitigation tax credit since this measure will be an even larger tax revenue stream for the Provinces and Territories than the federal government.
In sum, a tax credit for radon mitigation will help Canadians take this issue more seriously and get their homes tested. It will create jobs, provide federal and provincial tax revenues, and offset health care costs. Most important, it will help Canadians offset the cost of radon mitigation should they need to do so.
This blog post is by Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher and Paralegal at the Canadian Environmental Law Association