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Radon In Your Home

radon periodic table Radon is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that can seep undetected into your home and emit ionizing radiation which can cause lung cancer. Protect your family by testing your home for radon.

What Is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment. It is produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock and water. As a gas, radon can move freely through the soil enabling it to escape to the atmosphere or seep into buildings. Since radon can't be seen, smelled, or tasted, it can get into your home undetected.

In outdoor air, radon is diluted to such low concentrations that it is not a concern. But in confined spaces like your house, radon can build up to high levels and pose a health risk. Radon levels are generally highest in basements and crawl spaces because these areas are nearest to the source and are usually poorly ventilated.

Possible entry points into your home include:

  • cracks in foundation walls and floor slabs
  • construction joints
  • cracks in foundation walls
  • gaps in suspended floors or around service pipes
  • support posts
  • window casements
  • floor drains
  • sumps or cavities inside walls
  • dirt floors
  • the water supply

how radon enters your home

The amount of radon in your home depends on:

  • the amount of uranium in the ground
  • the number of entry points into your home
  • how well your home is ventilated

Do you know?
It is estimated that a non-smoker exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime has a one in 20 chance of developing lung cancer. That estimate increases to one in three for a smoker exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime.
Health Risks Of Radon
Radon exposure increases your risk of developing lung cancer. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The only known health effect of radon is an increased chance of developing lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. As radon decays, it produces decay by-products, sometimes called "radon daughters" or "radon progeny". Radon gas and radon progeny in the air can be breathed into the lungs where they breakdown further and emit "alpha particles", which are absorbed by nearby lung tissue and damaging lung cells. Damaged lung cells have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.

Not everyone exposed to radon develops cancer. The time between exposure and the onset of the disease usually takes many, many years. Unlike smoking, occasional exposure to radon does not produce any symptoms, such as coughing or headaches. Your risk of developing lung cancer from radon depends on the concentration of radon in the air you breathe and the length of time you are exposed. If you are a smoker also exposed to elevated levels of radon, your risk of lung cancer increases significantly.

Testing For Radon
Almost every home in Canada has some level of radon. But the levels vary from one house to another, even if they are next door to each other. The only way to know if you have a radon problem in your home is to have it tested. The test is simple, inexpensive, and can be ordered online.

Radon levels may vary daily, weekly, or even seasonally, depending on the climate, indoor ventilation and heating systems used. The best time to measure radon levels in your home is during the colder seasons (e.g., October to April) when windows and doors are kept closed and indoor radon levels are generally at their highest. Best results are obtained when testing for a minimum of three months. For real-estate transactions, often a short-term test is conducted over 2 to 4 days under closed house conditions.

Reducing Radon Levels In Your Home
If the radon level in your home is above the Canadian guideline of 200 becquerels/metre, you need to reduce it. The higher the radon level in your home, the sooner it needs to be reduced. If your home tests above the guideline you should hire a certified radon professional to determine the best and most cost effective way to reduce the radon level in your home. Health Canada recommends that no mitigation decision be made without a long term test.

One of the commonly-used radon solutions is known as sub-slab depressurization. This method requires a pipe to be installed through the foundation floor to the outside. A small fan is attached, which draws the radon from under the house and pushes it outside, before it can enter your home. This solution can reduce the radon level in a home by more than 90%.

Increased ventilation and sealing of radon entry points can also help reduce radon levels, but these solutions alone may not be as effective as sub-slab depressurization.

For more information on radon, visit www.healthcanada.gc.ca/radon.