Radon is a radioactive gas. This makes it seem like the stuff of thriller movies, where everyone is racing around wearing gas masks and setting up airtight decontamination chambers.
In this case, fiction and the truth are drawing closer than any of us might like. Radon is an increasing problem throughout Canada because of the type of soil we have.
The truth is, radon exposure is the leading cause of new lung cancer cases among non-smokers (16 percent of cases annually). If you smoke and are exposed to radon, your risk of getting lung cancer effectively doubles.
This is why we are devoting an entire post to the topic of radon exposure. There are effective options to reduce your risk and remove radon from your indoor air. Read on to find out how.
What Is Radon?
Radon comes from uranium, a naturally occurring element present in the rocks and soil all around the globe. It is one of the 118 elements in the periodic table you probably learned about in school.
Uranium is not one of the stable elements on the periodic table, however. It is incredibly unstable to its core. This means uranium is constantly in some state of decay, and when it decays, it releases an odourless, colourless, tasteless, invisible yet highly toxic gas.
That gas is called radon.
What Makes Radon So Dangerous?
Pretty much everyone knows the story of how Hiroshima was destroyed in 1945 when a single atomic bomb was dropped on the city center.
This bomb – the first ever deployed – was full of uranium.
It is important to know that the radioactive properties of uranium are also used for some good things, like medical tests and cancer treatments. But when uranium decays to the point where radon gas is released, this is definitely not a good thing.
When radon is released, it continues to break down into its core radioactive particles. These particles can attach to airborne particulates such as dust and debris.
Then you breathe these particulates in and they enter your lungs, where they attach and start their damaging work. Over time and with continued exposure, radon exposure can lead to lung cancer.
How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?
Because radon is naturally occurring and most soil has at least some uranium content, it is important to know that every single home in Canada has some level of radon gas. But in many places throughout Canada, our soil has high natural uranium content, which means more radon gas is being emitted.
Radon is a gas, which means it can move freely through the air and, sometimes, water as well. Radon naturally moves toward areas of lower air pressure, such as into your home. Radon is often present in higher concentrations in basements and ground floor levels.
Where there are natural or man-made apertures, such as cracks in foundation slabs, unsealed floor joists or utility pipes, drains or windows, radon will readily enter your home.
This helpful graphic shows exactly how radon leaves the rocks and soil and enters your home.
How Do You Test for Radon In Your Home?
You can’t know your personal level of exposure risk without doing a radon test.
For this reason, the government of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society both recommend testing your home’s indoor air for radon concentration.
The best way to test for radon is to schedule a 72-hour indoor air quality home test.
This silent test takes air samples every 60 seconds in key areas throughout your home. When the test concludes, you receive a full air quality assessment summary, complete with recommended action items.
How Do You Remove Radon From Your Indoor Air?
Removing radon from your indoor air typically requires a multi-phase approach.
Currently, Canada’s safety guidelines indicate that homes with airborne radon content of 200 Bq/m3 (a universal measurement of radioactivity) or greater should be remediated.
Of course, since radon is present in the air to some degree nearly everywhere, the first step you definitely want to take is to have your home professionally tested for radon to be sure you need to proceed to remediation.
HEPA Air Filter
The HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter was invented during World War II when scientists were working to develop the atomic bomb we mentioned here earlier.
Working with radioactive materials such as uranium released dangerous gases into the air, and the government needed an effective means of protection for their workers to clean the air inside the laboratory.
HEPA filters still represent the gold standard in air filtration today.
Research continues to support the use of HEPA filters for this purpose in hospitals, laboratories, workplaces and homes around the world.
Heat Recovery Ventilator
Heat recovery ventilation is another vital protective element when you are working to rid your home of toxic radon.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends installing a heat recovery ventilation system to exhaust radon-rich air to the outside.
HRV systems can be especially beneficial when installed in homes with crawl spaces and basements.
A number of radon redirection systems exist today. These systems work to attract radon, often using depressurized air as “bait,” and exhaust it safely away from your home.
Is Radon Present In Your Water?
While airborne radon is currently the most pressing health and safety concern for many homeowners today, if your home is dependent on a well for water, you may be at risk of waterborne radon exposure as well.
Get in Touch
Do you need help with indoor air quality testing and radon remediation?
Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.