You can’t see it or smell it, but radon may be seeping into your home.
Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer in Canada–it causes more lung cancer deaths than secondhand smoke! When uranium breaks down in soil, it creates the radioactive gas radon, which can enter your house through foundation cracks, sump pits, water sources…basically, anywhere your home comes into contact with the ground. Here are some ways that radon can enter your house.
Why does radon pose a danger in your house (or workplace or school), but it’s not a danger outside? The low air pressure in buildings draws in the radon. Think about what happens if you hold an empty cup underwater. The water tries to come over the top of the cup: it wants to get in. The air pressure in your home draws radon in in the same way that water would enter through a hole in the cup. After radon has been drawn in, it gets trapped and accumulates indoors.
Radon accounts for 16%of lung cancer deaths in Canadians. And the news is worse for smokers exposed to radon, who have a one in three chance of developing lung cancer, as opposed to a one in ten chance for a smoker not exposed to radon. A never-smoker exposed to high levels of radon has a one in 20 chance of developing lung cancer.
A recent study by Health Canada estimates that 12-14% of Thunder Bay homes—twice the national average—have high levels of radon. Both old and new homes are at risk, and the only way to know whether your home has the soil gas is to test for it. Residents who spend at least four hours a day in a lower-level or basement living area are most likely to have high exposure. Exposure is greatest in winter, when Canadians spend more time indoors and homes are kept airtight .
The good news is that testing is easy and inexpensive. Long-term tests give the most accurate results and cost $35. We sell radon test kits at our office at 562 Red River Road (Red River & Hill), or they are available on our website. While many homeowners set up test kits themselves, hiring a measurement professional is another good option. You can find a professional here.
If your home tests high (above 200 Bq/m3), contact a certified mitigation professional through the Canadian Radiation Proficiency Program’s website. Although there are currently no professionals based out of Thunder Bay, Cenlo Enterprises (based out of Sault Ste Marie) and RadonMatters (based out of Winnipeg) are both serving the Thunder Bay area.
The most common and effective mitigation option is an Active Soil Depressurization (ASD) system, which typically reduces radon levels by 90% or more. ASD systems have a similar cost as other home repairs, such as a new furnace.
For more information on radon, visit Health Canada’s website or pick up literature and test kits at our office.