Addressing rising Canadian radon gas-induced lung cancer risk due to COVID‑19 pandemic-linked lung injury, disability, and behaviour change

Goodarzi, Aaron | $455,834

Alberta The University of Calgary 2022 CIHR Operating Grant

Our goal is to understand and address rising radon gas-induced lung cancer risks due to COVID‑19 pandemic-linked lung injury, disability, and behaviour change. 1 in 5 lung cancers arise in Canadians who have never smoked, with ~110,000 cases since 2001. A previous lung disease history is directly associated with increased lung cancer risk in never-smokers, making them more vulnerable to triggers. The most common lung cancer trigger in never-smokers is repetitive inhalation of radioactive radon gas, a prevalent carcinogen in the Canadian residential environment that emits highly mutagenic particle radiation. The amount of life spent ‘at home’ correlates with radon exposure, modifying lung cancer risk as a function of our behaviour and built environment. Young people and the 6 million Canadians living with disability were, even before the pandemic, exposed to more radon due to biases in how they are able access housing stock. Today, fully 1 in 5 people hospitalized with COVID‑19 are returning to their lives with a new disability, as lung and heart injury increases prevalence of debilitating fatigue, cognitive impairment, and reduced mobility; collectively, these alter employment prospects, behaviour, and time spent at home. For others, COVID-19-related behaviour changes such as heightened demand for long term telecommuting is changing radon exposure, with a 20% increase in particle radiation dose to lungs recorded for 18-45 year-olds so far. In this project, we will (1) measure radon exposure of Canadians experiencing COVID-19-induced disability and/or behaviour change, as a function of personal demographics, employment sector, job profile and across the built environment; (2) estimate radon-induced lung cancer burdens and costs in a pandemic-modified future with/without intervention for impacted groups; and (3) develop, for the first time, radon reduction resources for those living with disability, with a focus on COVID‑19 survivors and promoting healthier cities.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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