What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas formed naturally in the atmosphere by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless. Outdoors, when radon is released from the ground, it becomes diluted by fresh air, resulting in concentrations too low to be hazardous. But when radon enters an enclosed indoor space, such as a house or basement, it can accumulate to high concentrations and become a serious health risk.
Radon typically moves up through the ground into the atmosphere, and then through cracks and holes in a home’s foundation, and then through basement walls or floors into the indoor air of your home. Radon gas can then become trapped and build up concentrations in areas of your home.
How does the presence of Radon gas in your home affect you?
Exposure to radon gas increases your risk of developing lung cancer. Radon gas that is present in the air is breathed into the lungs where it breaks down further and emits alpha particles, releasing small bursts of energy that are absorbed by lung tissue. This results in lung cell damage. When damaged, lung cells have the potential to become cancerous. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.
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. The National Cancer Institute of Canada estimated 19,300 deaths from lung cancer in 2006. Radon was the cause of 10% of these deaths.*.
The results of a Health Canada survey of 14,000 Canadian homes in 2009 and 2010 showed that:
- About 7% of homes in Canada have radon levels above the Canadian guideline.
- Radon levels vary quite significantly across the country.
- It is impossible to predict whether any one house will have a high level of radon.
Factors that affect Radon levels in a home include:
- The amount of uranium in the ground around the home.
- The entry points available into your home
- About one in every 15 homes is thought to have high levels of radon, and the highest concentrations tend to be found in basement or first floor levels.
Radon concentrations tend to be greater on the lower levels of a home. A person who sleeps or spends much of their time in the basement will be more at risk than others who occupy higher levels in the same house if radon is present.
It is assumed 75% of a person’s time is spent at home. The more time spent at home implies a higher risk of inhaling radon if it is present.
Symptoms of radon gas exposure
While there are no symptoms related to radon gas exposure, radon gas can damage cells in your lungs, which can lead to cancer. radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.
How can Radon gas testing help?
Because there are so many contributing factors to consider, it is not possible to predict radon levels in any given home; the only way to know for sure is to have your home professionally tested for radon gas.
Having your air quality monitored by a qualified residential air quality professional will determine whether radon gas is present in your home, and, more importantly, at what levels. Once you know the answers, you can then take the necessary next steps to address for radon mitigation and prevent it from reoccurring.
Radon gas testing & assessment is advised if:
- Your home’s foundations have numerous cracks and openings, and have more potential entry points for radon
- You suspect there may be radon gas build up or concentrations in any area of your home, especially in lower level or basement areas
- You are concerned about the “air tightness” of your home, especially between the soil and the foundation, and in the interior basement or lower level areas of your home
- Although radon exposure can happen in any type of home, whether it has a basement, a crawl space, or is built on a slab, it’s more likely to accumulate in homes that are very well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or located where the soil contains a lot of uranium, thorium, and radium.
What to expect from radon gas testing in your homeHere’s what you can expect when you book an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test with Healthy Homes by AmeriSpec:
- A comprehensive walk through and assessment by a qualified Healthy Homes by AmeriSpec technician, including a complete visual inspection of the home and key area(s) of concern
- AmeriSpec tests for radon levels in the lowest living area of your home. Using one of several measuring devices, and depending on your home’s particular location and situation, a continuous monitor, an Electret Ion Chamber or an alpha tracker device may be used. These devices are typically deployed in the test area for a period of between 48 hours (short-term radon test) and 90 days (long-term radon test).
- The continuous radon monitor provides hourly readings of the level of radon present in the tested area of the home, while the other devices will provide a maximum level for the testing period.
- Air tightness testing may also be conducted throughout your home to pinpoint possible leaking or areas of exposure to radon gas
- After all testing and assessment procedures are completed, you will be provided with a detailed and easy-to-understand evaluation report.
Important facts about Radon gas
- Because radon levels present in a home depend on so many variables, and can vary dramatically even between similar homes located next to each other, the only way to determine if you and your family are at risk is to have your home professionally tested.
- Radon gas can enter a house any place it finds an opening where the house contacts the soil: cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes and support posts, floor drains and sumps, cavities inside walls, and the water supply. Concrete-block walls are particularly porous to radon.
- Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
- Homeowners should not rely on radon “maps” or other similar tests in your community since radon levels can vary from home to home in the same area. Have your home checked by a qualified professional, like AmeriSpec, to protect your home and your family.
- If your home’s radon levels are high, sealing cracks might help, but severe cases will likely need a depressurization of the soil below the house.
- According to Canadian guidelines, a home should have no more than 200 becquerels of radon gas per cubic meter.
The first step towards having a healthy home is to have your indoor air quality professionally tested.
If you are concerned about radon gas in your home…don’t wait. Your lungs will thank you.
*The estimated chance a non-smoker will develop lung cancer if exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime.