Researching radon levels in the north
Published Monday, February 12, 2018 7:07PM EST
In Sudbury, a key study is taking place into the issues surrounding the chemical radon and how exposure to it can be harmful, often leading to cancer.
The study is being done at Sudbury’s health care centre and thanks to a new funding boost that research is heading into a new phase.
At the Health Sciences North Research Institute, scientists led by Leslie Sutherland are studying the effect of radon on lung cells.
"It's the number one cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke and in Canada, I believe it kills somewhere in the vicinity of about 3,000 people a year." said Sutherland.
Radon can't be detected by human senses. It's a carcinogen that, in high concentrations, will mutate DNA and cause serious illness, but Sutherland's research is looking to find out whether there is a health benefit to low doses of radon.
"What happens when you're bombarded with very low doses of radiation is that your cells are actually stimulated to repair themselves. So, I’m actually studying very low doses of radon at the moment and I’d like to be able to see eventually, is whether very low doses are beneficial." said Sutherland.
Due to what's believed to be a link between radon and childhood leukemia, some of this research is being funded by the NEO Kids Foundation.
Patrica Mills is the NEO Kids Foundation President.
"Healthcare is also research. It's okay to treat the patient, but boy, wouldn't it be great if we could find out why we have these high rates and stop them? So, i think that education factor is a huge part of what NEO Kids is all about." said Mills.
The HSN Research Institute says very little is actually known about either the harmful or potentially beneficial effects of human exposure to radon. In northern Ontario, where radon levels are high, the findings of Sutherland's team could have major health implications.