What you need to know about radon

Radon is found in almost every house, but concentration levels vary from one house to another, even if they are similar and next door to each other. The Canadian Forces Housing Agency applies established Canadian guidelines to help manage indoor air quality in your home and takes action to reduce radon levels in your housing unit.

What is radon?

Radon is an invisible, colourless, and odourless gas that naturally occurs in the soil and is found across Canada. Concentration levels differ greatly from one place to another depending on the make-up of the soil. However, higher levels of radon may be found in areas where there is also a higher amount of uranium in underlying rock and soil.

How can radon enter my home?

The air pressure inside your home is usually lower than in the soil surrounding the foundation. This difference in pressure can draw air and other soil gases, including radon, into your home.

Radon can enter buildings and homes through any opening where there is contact with soil (floor drains, cracks in foundation walls, gaps around pipes and cables). Factors that influence the entry of radon include air pressure related to weather changes, building construction, as well as ventilation systems.

What actions have we taken?

Where results of radon testing exceed the Canadian guideline, the Canadian Forces Housing Agency applies Health Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s recommended steps to reduce the presence of radon in housing units. Steps can include:

  • sealing cracks in foundations
  • modifying ventilation systems
  • installing heat recovery ventilators

National radon program

Health Canada developed a national radon strategy for testing all buildings that are owned by the federal government, including the Department of National Defence’s residential housing units. To date, less than 2% of housing units tested had an average radon concentration above the Canadian guideline. For more information on the radon testing in your specific area, contact your local base/wing radon representative.

Heat recovery ventilators and how they help

Heat recovery ventilators are energy-efficient devices that are sometimes installed in housing units to manage the potential of entry of radon into your home. They also help introduce and circulate a continuous stream of fresh, filtered outdoor air to all areas of the home. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reports that heat recovery ventilators can reduce residential radon levels by 25-75%. In some cases, they  are not sufficient to bring the radon level down and other mitigation methods may be necessary.

What can you do?

  • Be informed
  • Plug in and use the heat recovery ventilator where installed
  • Contact your base/wing radon representative for site specific radon information
  • Contact your Housing Services Centre for more information about the presence and operation of ventilation systems in your home

Related links

For more information on the national radon program or testing at your base/wing, please contact your local Housing Services Centre and refer to these websites:

Canadian radon guideline

Although there are no Building Code requirements that govern radon in existing homes, Health Canada recommends taking remedial measures whenever the average annual radon concentration exceeds 200 Bq/m³ in the normal occupancy area where a person is likely to spend greater than four hours per day.

Impacts

According to Health Canada, the only known health impacts associated with exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air is an increased lifetime risk of developing lung cancer. The risk from radon exposure is long term and depends on the level of radon, how long a person is exposed and their smoking habits. For more information on health risks from exposure to radon, please visit Health Canada’s website.
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