Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment. It is produced by the breakdown of uranium found in soil, rock or water. Radon is invisible, odourless and tasteless and emits ionizing radiation.

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Health effects of radon

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels. Exposure to radon and tobacco use together can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer.

Radon gas breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs, radon continues to breakdown, creating radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy. This energy is absorbed by nearby lung tissue, damaging the lung cells. When cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.

Testing for radon in your home

There are two options for testing a house for radon:

  1. Purchase a do-it-yourself radon test kit
  2. Hire a radon measurement professional

If you choose to purchase a radon test kit, you must closely follow the instructions on how to set up the test.

If you choose to hire a service provider to perform the radon test in your house, it is recommended that you ensure they are certified and will conduct a long term test for a minimum of 3 months.

Reducing radon levels in your home

If your radon test result is above the guideline of 200 Bq/m3 you should hire a certified radon professional to determine the best and most cost effective way to reduce the radon level in your home. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives. A radon mitigation system can be installed in less than a day and in most homes will reduce the radon level by more than 80% for about the same cost as other common home repairs.

The most common radon reduction method is called sub-slab depressurization. With this solution a pipe is installed through the basement sub-flooring to an outside wall or up through to the roof line.  A small fan is attached which draws the radon from below the house to the outside before it can enter your home. Increasing ventilation and sealing major entry routes can also help reduce radon levels, but their effectiveness will be limited depending on how high the radon level is and the unique characteristics of each home.
Health Canada recommends that the contractor be certified as a radon mitigation professional from the Canadian certificate program, Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP).

About radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock.  It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces, like homes, it can accumulate to high levels and become a risk to the health of you and your family.

How radon gets into your home

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

Radon can enter a home any place it finds an opening where the house contacts the ground: cracks in foundation floor and walls, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.

Radon levels in Canada

Uranium is a common element found everywhere in the earth’s crust, as a result radon gas can be found in almost all homes in Canada. Concentrations differ greatly across the country, but are usually higher in areas where there is a higher amount of uranium in underlying rock and soil.

Radon concentration levels will vary from one house to another, even if they are similar and next door to each other, the only way to be sure of the radon level in your home is to test.

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