Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberals are calling on the Stefanson Government and public health to take radon and lead exposure seriously, and to set up a fund to help Manitobans reduce exposure to toxic substances in Manitoba homes, schools, and childcare spaces.
Manitoba Liberals say the PCs and NDP alike have dragged their feet on acting on basic public health measures, like preventing exposure to common toxic substances in homes and workplaces. The provincial government has known for decades that there are dangerous levels of lead and radon that can make people sick for life.
"We need to act now to reduce Manitobans' exposure to radon and lead, especially children and staff at schools and early childhood education centres," said Manitoba Liberal Health Critic and MLA for River Heights, Dr. Jon Gerrard. "No Manitoban should have to endure exposure to toxic substances because they can't afford effective mitigation efforts that will make them safe. This is a public health issue that will protect children, prevent lung cancer, disability, and save lives."
Radon is a naturally occurring, odourless and colourless radioactive gas that seeps out of the ground and can concentrate in basements and buildings with inadequate ventilation. It is definitively linked to increased risk of lung cancer, and increases the risk of lung cancer when people are exposed to smoking as well.
It is estimated that Radon causes 150 new lung cancer cases each year in Manitoba, which has the second highest rates of Radon of any province in Canada.
Manitoba radon hotspots include communities where more than half the homes may have high radon levels:
Brandon has 37% of homes with high radon levels,
44% in the former Central RHA which includes Portage, Morden, and Winkler
71% in the RM of Dauphin, and 79% of homes in the RM of Harrison Park.
Lead exposure, which can be found in lead pipes in older homes, can cause brain damage, especially in children.
In March 2019, Health Canada released new national guidelines for lead in drinking water. Manitoba Liberals say because the Manitoba Government dragged its feet, it took the Auditor General to order all schools and child care centres to test for lead.
The Winnipeg School Division recently released its testing, which shows excess lead was found at taps and drinking fountains in dozens of Manitoba schools and childcare spaces.
"We have known for decades that high lead levels are an issue across the province, but the PCs and NDP sat on reports and did nothing," said Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dougald Lamont. "This is not something that Manitobans have to foot the bill for on their own. It requires provincial investments."
Jon Gerrard Radon Report: www.jongerrardmla.ca/wcm-docs/docs/reports/radon_report_-_may_11_2022.pdf
Water sampling results for Winnipeg School Division Schools: