The City of West Kelowna should consider offering a subsidy to help homeowners buy a $30 radon detection device, Coun. Rick De Jong says. Two-thirds of West Kelowna buildings have radon levels that exceed World Health Organization guidelines, according to a recent sample.

Homeowners in West Kelowna should get some financial help from the city to buy $30 radon detection kits, Coun. Rick De Jong says.

The municipality should take a lead role in encouraging more people to test the radon levels in their homes with a view to remedying the potentially deadly problem, De Jong said at a Tuesday council meeting.

"I wonder if our staff can start being proactive and start budgeting so many test kits into the budget to offset costs and get more of these out there," De Jong said. "I challenge staff to put some thought to that one."

He acknowledged a $30 purchase price did not represent a "horrendous" expense but suggested the city could nevertheless provide some subsidy to encourage wider use of the kits.

"If we have 5,000 or 6,000 homeowners who want a radon test kit to see if their family is safe or not, what can we do as a community to drive this forward?" De Jong said.

Should the municipality agree to buy thousands of the radar detection kits for distribution, regional air quality specialist Nancy Mora Castro told council, the manufacturers would likely agree to an even lower cost.

Council heard that recent testing showed 63% of buildings in West Kelowna had radon gas levels that exceeded standards set by the World Health Organization. Thirty-three percent of buildings had radon levels above the higher safety standard used in Canada.

Throughout the Central Okanagan, 57% of tested buildings had radon levels above the WHO safety standard.

Radon is an odourless gas caused naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. When it escapes from the ground it is naturally diluted into low concentrations and causes no concern, the federal government says.

However, if the gas can accumulate in an enclosed space, such as a basement, it can rise to high levels and become a health hazard. It's described by Health Canada as the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Since 2012, the B.C. Building Code has required new homes in the BC Interior to be roughed-in with radon venting pipes should later testing determine high levels of the gas and a need for a remediation system.