A Beginner’s Guide to Radon Gas

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas, produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks, soil, and water. Radon gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Diluted in the atmosphere, radon poses negligible affects to human health. However, when built up inside a home, health risks are increased.

What are the Dangers of Radon?

When radon gas is inhaled, the particles can decay in lung tissue over time. As the particles decay, they release radiation which can damage to the lung cells. Over time, this cell damage can lead to the development of lung cancer. After smoking, radon exposure is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. It is estimated that 16 percent of lung cancers deaths can be attributed to long-term radon exposure.

How does Radon Enter the Home?

Since radon comes from the earth, it generally enters the home through openings or cracks in the building foundation. Basements are generally where radon exposure is most pronounced. Openings can occur around construction joints, floor drains, support posts, and window casements.

Radon Testing

Radon testing is easy and relatively inexpensive. It can be done using a do-it-yourself at home kit, or by hiring a radon measurement professional to perform the test. Short term tests usually take a few days, while a long-term test can take up to 3 months. Long-term tests have been proven to be more accurate and should be performed wherever possible. A short-term test may be useful when buying a home, due to the time constraints with due diligence periods.

Remediation

If radon levels exceed 200 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq/m³), remediation is required. Fortunately, radon exposure can be successfully mitigated in every type of home. There are different radon mitigation systems that can be used depending on the level of radon in the home, and how it is entering the building. Mitigation systems generally include a pump or fan and can cost anywhere between $2,500 and $5,000 including installation. A radon mitigation system can reduce radon levels in the home by up to 95%, and protect the home value for years to come.

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