Radon is a type of natural gas that contains potentially dangerous levels of radioactivity. It can be found in rock, water and soil and is produced by decaying uranium. Radon can move through soil freely, so it often escapes out of the ground, and ends up in buildings or homes.
When radon escapes from the ground and into the outdoor air it poses a minimal threat to our health. But if a building or house is built over soil that contains uranium, radon gas can be released into the building through places like cracks in the foundation, and the concentration levels become dangerous for humans.
Radon can enter your home through almost any place where there is an opening. Possible entry points include:
- Window casements
- Floor drains
- Sumps or cavities inside walls
- Dirt floors
- Cracks in foundation walls and floor slabs
- Construction joints
- Gaps around service pipes
- Support posts
The radon levels in your home will depend on:
- The amount of uranium in the ground
- The number of entry points into your home
- How well your home is ventilated
When radon is confined to enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces it can accumulate to high levels. Basements and crawl spaces are especially good at collecting the gas because these areas are nearest to the source and are usually poorly ventilated.
The biggest health risk associated with radon is an increased chance of developing lung cancer. Surprisingly, it is the second leading cause after smoking. When radon decays it produces elements that can be breathed into the lungs where they breakdown and are absorbed by nearby lung tissue. This results in the type of lung cell damage that can result in cancer.
Testing for radon
Health Canada recommends using a test device for at least three months. The best time to do it is during the colder times of year when your windows are mostly closed. These are the two options for testing:
- Hire a certified radon measurement professional.
- Purchase a do-it-yourself long-term radon test kit. Home radon test kits cost between $30 and $60 and can be purchased from some hardware stores or ordered by phone or online.
Although the levels vary from one house to another – even if they are beside each other – almost every home in Canada has some radon. Testing your home is the only way to know if you have a radon problem. It is simple and inexpensive, so look into it right away, and don’t risk the potentially lethal consequences.