Radon Testing

Uranium is everywhere, in all kinds of soil, and when it breaks down it produces a radioactive gas that is odourless, colourless and tasteless. This gas is radon.

When radon gas is released into the atmosphere, it gets diluted. But if it finds its way into your home it can accumulate into higher concentrations, and that's when it can become dangerous.

Being exposed to high doses of radon over a long period of time is a major health risk. According to Health Canada, radon gas is linked to about 16 percent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada. That makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer; first for non-smokers.

Being a smoker significantly increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer if they are also exposed to elevated levels of radon. For example, people who are only exposed to radon have a 1 in 20 chance of developing lung cancer whereas those who are also smokers have a 1 in 3 chance.

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What Are The Risks?

Radon is present everywhere. It is just a matter of how much is in your home.

Being exposed to high doses of radon over a long period of time is a huge health risk. According to Health Canada, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. In fact, it is estimated that 16 percent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada are related to radon.

How Much is Too Much?

While certain areas are known to be more prone to higher levels of radon, there is no way of knowing the levels in your home without testing. For that reason it is recommended that all homes be tested for radon.

The current national guideline is a maximum of 200 becquerels per cubic metre or 200 Bq/m3. (Becquerels are units used to measure radioactive concentration.) But according to Health Canada, it is estimated that 7 percent of all Canadians live in homes that have radon levels higher than the national guideline.

How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?

Radon is a gas, so it can easily seep into your home through floors, pipes, windows, sumps and cracks in foundation walls. But it can even penetrate through foundation walls because concrete is porous.

The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it. One house can have radon levels next to zero while the house next door can be off the charts.

These levels also fluctuate depending on the weather, humidity and even time of year.

For example, during the winter when windows and doors are kept shut for the most part, radon can accumulate in the home. This is why radon levels tend to be higher in the winter-and for that same reason, why winter is the best time to test for radon.

radon testing

RADON IN CANADA

Radon is measured in becquerels, which is a unit used to measure radioactive concentration. The Canadian guideline for radon dictates that a home should not contain more than 200 Bq/m3 or 200 units of becquerels per cubic metre. Before 2007, the national guideline for radon was 800 Bq/m3.

Between 2009 and 2010, Health Canada did a cross-country survey that revealed about 7 percent of Canadians are living in homes with radon levels above the guideline.

 

The survey also revealed that different parts of the country have different levels of radon. For example, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and the Yukon had the highest percentages of radon, whereas Nunavut and Prince Edward Island had the lowest.

RADON TESTING

There are short-term and long-term radon tests. A short-term test can last anywhere between 2 - 7 days, whereas long-term testing can last as long as 365 days.

Due to the fluctuations in radon levels, long-term testing provides a more accurate indication of a home's average year-round radon levels. For this reason Health Canada recommends long-term radon testing.

RADON TESTING REQUIREMENTS

Specific requirements must be followed when testing for radon. For example, all windows and doors must be kept shut as much as possible during the full duration of the test. This is why some homeowners choose to have their home tested while they are away.

In addition to maintaining closed conditions, the radon detector must be placed in the lowest area of the house that is occupied for at least 4 hours a day. It cannot be placed near any vents or where humidity is likely to occur, such as in the kitchen or bathroom. There also shouldn't be any objects around the radon detector, which could obstruct its reading.

GETTING RID OF RADON

Reducing radon levels in a home can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000. Some solutions involve installing a cap on sump pumps, or boosting up the ventilation in the home with something like a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), or sealing cracks in the foundation and around pipes and drains. Sometimes these solutions are enough, but other times they're not.

The most effective way to reduce radon levels in a home is through a process called sub-slab depressurization. It involves drilling a hole through the basement floor (concrete slab) and installing a pipe with a fan. The fan draws radon gas from the ground and expels it through the pipe to a vent, usually located on the roof of the home.

If your home requires radon mitigation, make sure you hire a contractor who is certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) and who has plenty of experience reducing radon levels in residential construction.