November is National Radon Action Month and every year my son, Mike Jr., and I get involved to help spread the word about radon. Everybody wears a seatbelt as a safety precaution when driving; getting a radon test for your home is like wearing your seatbelt.
Between 2009 and 2011, Health Canada did a survey that tested radon levels in 14,000 homes across the country. They found that almost seven per cent of these homes had radon levels above the Health Canada guideline of 200 Bq/m3.
A follow-up survey was done recently, and of those people whose homes tested above the national guideline, guess how many had done something to fix the problem? Just less than 30 per cent. That tells me we still have work to do when it comes to helping people understand the health risks of radon.
Radon is a silent killer. It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer — and it’s the first cause in non-smokers. Every day eight Canadians die due to radon-induced lung cancer.
Uranium is a metal that’s found everywhere. It’s in rock and soil, and when it starts to break down it creates a radioactive gas. That gas is radon. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it — but it’s there.
All buildings have some level of radon. The problem starts when it gets trapped and starts to accumulate. Most homes today are built to be more tightly sealed, which is great for energy-efficiency, but not if you have a radon problem. The big risk to your health is breathing in high concentrations of radon over time.
Radon is a silent killer.
It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer
— and it’s the first cause in non-smokers.
Because radon is a gas, it’s easy for it to get inside your home. It can typically enter through small cracks in the floor slab, foundation, crawl spaces, through the sump pump, openings for venting, plumbing — it can even get into your water supply. Every home has some radon in it; the question is how much. The only way to know is by testing. My son recently renovated his home and one of the first things we did was a radon test.
There are different types of radon testing, even do-it-yourself, but the best thing you can do — for your home and your family — is to have a healthy home inspection that includes radon testing. It can not only tell you if you have a radon problem but also whether there are other issues affecting the quality of your indoor air.
The inspector will drop off the radon test device, put it in its proper place, pick it up when testing is over and then send it to the lab. Once they receive the test results, they will notify you, and if your home has elevated levels, they can also help you take the proper steps to find a radon mitigation contractor certified under the Canadian National Proficiency Program (C-NRPP).
Radon remediation can cost between $2,000 and $3,000, on average. The most effective method is a process called sub slab depressurization. That’s when a hole is drilled through the basement floor or concrete slab and then a pipe installed, with a fan. This draws radon gas from the ground, not giving it a chance to get inside the house, and expels it outside.
Some people might think that radon isn’t a serious issue — especially since you can’t see it — or that fixing the problem is too expensive. But just ask someone who has lost a loved one who never smoked a day in their life to lung cancer, or they themselves have lung cancer and don’t smoke. You’ll see how quickly you change your mind, because there’s a very high likelihood they were exposed to elevated levels of radon at some point.
They say knowledge is power, but it only works if you use it. If your home has elevated levels of radon you must correct the issue. It’s called National Radon Action Month for a reason. Action means it’s necessary to do something to address this very real risk. Being aware of a radon problem is only the first step. The action part will save your life.
Your home should be the safest place in the world. Make it right. Get your home tested for radon, and if you find it has elevated levels, contact a professional certified under the C-NRPP.