Is your home safe? 

Patricia Lavoie 

It’s a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odour- less and tasteless. No home is safe from radon. 

When uranium that is found in the soil, fractured bedrock or groundwater breaks down, radon is released. Outside, this does not pose a problem. However, when radon infiltrates enclosed spaces like our homes, it can accumulate to high levels where it may pose a health risk. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. 

So how does this undetectable gas gain entrance to our homes? In fact, quite easily. There are many openings where the house meets the ground: cracks in the foundation as well as in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls. 

Although all homes in Canada have radon gas, concentrations differ widely across the country. Obviously levels are usually high-er in areas where there is a greater amount of uranium in underlying rock and soil. Interestingly enough, radon levels will vary from one house to another, even if they are of similar design and even next door to each other. 

The only way to detect radon is by testing. This can be done with a do-it-yourself kit or by hiring a radon measurement professional. If you opt to do it yourself Health Canada recommends installing a dosimeter, a small capsule-like object. Because radon is located at the lowest level of a home, the dosimeter should be placed for 90 days in the lowest room that is occupied for more than four hours a day by a family member. Best locations are the living room, bedroom, and playroom. Places to avoid: kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, closets, crawl spaces and furnace room. Test kits may be purchased over the phone, on the internet or from home improvement retailers. Once the testing period is over, the dosimeter must be sent to a lab for analysis, the cost of which ranges from $30 to $60. 

Ideally, measurements should be taken between November and April when average radon concentrations are higher because the windows remain closed. 

No matter the age, model or location of your home, the only way to be sure of the radon level is to test. 

For further information: Source: Government of Canada