Why you should be aware of radon in your home
Radon is an invisible, colourless and odourless gas that releases into the air during the normal breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. Outside, radon dissipates enough that we don’t need to worry about it. But due to Canada’s geology and the amount of time spent indoors in winter, we have a higher risk of radon accumulation in homes, which becomes a health risk for you and your family.
Why should I worry about radon in my home? Radon is able to seep into our homes at any area that is in contact with the ground, whether it is through the basement, crawlspace, cracks in the foundation or concrete, sump pumps, window casements or basement joints. Without being able to see or smell the gas, many homes go untested for radon gas.
When a radioactive gas like radon is inhaled, it naturally breaks down into radioactive particles that can be trapped in your lungs. This can cause damage to our lung tissue, which can then develop into lung cancer over the course of a lifetime.
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Studies by Health Canada have shown that radon concentrations vary a great deal, making it impossible to predict radon levels in any one home or building. If your neighbour’s house tests free of radon, it doesn’t mean yours will test free as well. Radon levels differ from house to house, even among those on the same street. The only way to know if you are being exposed to radon gas is to test for it.
How can I test my home for radon?
If you haven’t thought about radon in your home before, or haven’t done a test in a while, it’s a good idea to get your home tested or re-tested to make sure there isn’t too much radon in your home.
Pick up a long-term test kit: These test kits measure radon levels in your home for at least 90 days to collect a proper amount of data and give an accurate radon reading within your home. It’s best to use these kits within the winter months when the windows are less likely to be open, to allow for an accurate test. Long-term test kits will differ in price and can be purchased at hardware stores or online at radon specialized organizations such as Canada Radon or AGAT Laboratories.
Hire a professional: Professional services are available to do the measuring and work for you. These services can help to set up a test kit in your home, making sure it is placed in the proper location, and will give you more information on radon, letting you know what your next steps are to help reduce the radon in your home.
After testing, how do I reduce radon levels in my home?
After testing your home for radon, if your levels are high (anything over 200 Becquerels per cubic metre should be dealt with), it’s important to reduce them to a healthier level. Professional radon services are available to begin this process by installing a mitigation system that will help draw the radon away from your home. Ottawa Public Health links to radon testing companies here. Most companies that test for radon will also remediate.
Here are a couple of other tips you can try to help reduce radon in your home:
Seal cracks and holes: With radon rising through the cracks and holes in your foundation, using a sealant on these areas can help reduce the radon level, even if only by a small amount.
Ventilation: Airing out the lowest level of your home, whether it’s the crawlspace or the basement, can help lower radon levels. Try closing off this section of your home and opening the windows to provide a breeze.
For more information on radon gas, visit Ottawa Public Health.