November is Radon awareness month in Canada. But what is radon and why should you care?
Radon, according to the Government of Canada, is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. It enters each home through cracks, pipes, and other penetrations in the foundation and floor slab.
Some amount of radon is found in almost every home, but it varies greatly from one home to another even if those homes are beside each other. Health Canada estimated in 2012 that about 7 per cent of Canadians are living with high radon levels in their home. This number is estimated to be higher as more research is being done.
In the past, Health Canada has considered making it mandatory to test for Radon during real estate transactions but backed down after pressure from lobby groups.
Currently, the only way to know if your home has Radon is to test for it. That’s because radon is invisible: you won’t be able to smell it, taste it or see it. You can either hire a professional from an accredited organization, like the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP), or order an at-home kit. It’s easy to do, although it takes about three months to get results, and the kit is sent back to a lab for analysis.
If that sounds like too much trouble and expense, consider the risks of radon.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in Canada.
The gas breaks down into radioactive elements and gets inhaled into your lungs, where it decays further, getting absorbed into lung tissue. When these damaged lung tissue cells reproduce, it may grow uncontrollably, i.e, cancerously.
The risk of cancer significantly increases if you also smoke tobacco. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker your risk of getting lung cancer is one in 10, according to the Government of Canada. If you add long-term exposure to high levels of radon, you bump up that risk to one in three.
If you do find your house has radon above the Canadian guideline of 200 Bq/m3 (note that the World Health Organization recommends a lower limit of 100 Bq/m3), you can successfully reduce the levels by hiring a contractor to install a sub slab depressurization system (SSD) and also make some changes to the ventilation and sealing all cracks and openings. The estimated costs of those repairs is around $2,000 to $3,000, well worth the price considering the high risks.
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About the OAHI
Through education and advocacy the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors cultivates a thriving home inspection industry based on the highest standards of professional development and ethical standards. In doing so, OAHI cultivates the ‘gold standard’ for home inspectors among consumers and the government. OAHI is the only provincially recognized body of home inspectors by The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994. OAHI is a not-for-profit association.
OAHI member inspectors see homes differently.