A comprehensive study has found a cancer-causing gas that can be found in homes consistently eclipses provincial and national estimates.
That gas is radon, which is invisible, odourless and tasteless, and the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
According to Health Canada, 16% of lung cancer deaths in Canada are attributed to indoor radon exposure. This amounts to more than 3,300 radon-related deaths per year.
Radon is only a concern if levels are above 200 becquerels per cubic metre, which is the safe limit Health Canada has set for it in a home.
To protect yourself, here are four things every homeowner should know about this potential health hazard.
1. Radon occurs naturally when the uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It can enter a home any place it finds an opening where the house is in contact with soil — cracks in foundation walls and floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls — and get trapped in enclosed spaces, such as basement or crawl spaces.
2. Radon is undetectable without proper testing and should be done no matter the age of the home, as all homes contain the gas. This includes new homes that are built to be airtight to keep us warm in winter. Unfortunately, this means radon concentration can easily build up over time because gas can’t escape.
3. Testing for radon is easy with a certified do-it-yourself radon test kit or by hiring a certified radon measurement and mitigation professional. Health Canada suggests testing for a minimum of three months to get an accurate measurement.
4. It’s recommended that homeowners test their home for radon starting in November, ahead of the winter months when more time is spent indoors. To obtain a realistic estimate of radon exposure, all measurements should be made in the lowest lived-in level of the home. In other words, the lowest level that is used or occupied for more than four hours per day. This may be the basement or the ground floor.