Most wouldn’t suspect that their home may be harbouring a deadly, radioactive gas lurking in their basement.
Radon gas is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas which is created from decaying uranium from rock or soil, leeching into groundwater and well water below-ground fittings and cracks. In the outside environment, it is considered harmless, as it is diluted with the air. When trapped inside a home, it pools and due to its density, lays low and simply hovers there. If stirred up, radon will seep upstairs to other areas of your home.
In high enough levels and with long-term exposure, this odourless, colourless, tasteless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in the world, second only to smoking. If the levels in your home are above the accepted current levels and you are a smoker, your chances of getting lung cancer are doubled.
Health Canada states that when inhaled, radon decay products (particles) become deeply lodged within the lungs, emitting ionizing radiation, which penetrate the mucous membranes, bronchi and other pulmonary tissues.
As radon gas is radioactive, it is measured in becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). One becquerel is described as one radioactive disintegration per second. The current Canadian accepted safe level is 200 Bq/m3, in the past the accepted level was 800 Bq/m3.
As this gas continues to pool, it creates what are termed ‘daughters’. These particles attach themselves to other dust particulate, which move freely throughout the areas in your home and when inhaled, over time, become lethal if at high enough levels.
Even though radon levels vary widely from home to home, there are a number of radon ‘hotspots’ in British Columbia.
Radon detectors are available for short term testing (2 to 7 days), but more accurate kits are available through the B.C. Lung Association or Home Hardware which need 3 to 12 months. If you find your levels are over the safe level, heat recovery ventilation systems (HRV) can be installed, by radon mitigation companies, which then exchange the air throughout your home.
Health Canada suggests contacting the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP), which is the credentialing body who administer and operate the program in accordance with their program policies.
To learn more about radon gas, visit the Health Canada Website at www.healthcanada.gc.ca/radon or call 1-800-622-6232, or through Interior Health by logging on to www.health.gov.bc.ca/socsec/ or by calling 250-862-4200.