February 24,

Radon

Radon

What is the concern with radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, inert radioactive gas. It occurs naturally in soil and rocks as uranium decays.  Radon has a half-life of 3.82 days, and it decays into a series of radon decay products that can be inhaled.

The movement of radon gas into basements and ground level living areas can result in a much higher level of radiation exposure indoors than would occur outdoors.  Levels in the home are highest in the winter when windows and doors are kept closed.

Health Canada has set the guidelines for the acceptable level of radon in indoor air at 200 Bq/m3.

Radon and cancer

Breathing in air containing high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer.  Cancers caused by radio activity are started by chance and not everyone exposed will develop lung cancer. The time between and the onset of the disease is usually many years.

In addition, there is a synergistic effect b/w cigarette smoking and radon gas in the development of lung cancer.  From a “public health perspective”, radon is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer.

Smoking increases the risk of exposure to radon.  When harvested, tobacco leaves from some areas may contain high concentrations of radon. With every breath, this radon is inhaled into the lungs of cigarette smokers.

How does radon enter homes?

Radon can seep into a home through:
·  dirt floors
·  cracks in concrete walls and floors
·  sumps and basement drains
·  joints
·  under the furnace base

Well water can contain dissolved radon, which is released into the air in a home when the water is agitated by activities such as showering, washing clothes or cooking.

Radon is nine times heavier than air, so it tends to remain close to the ground.  Radon levels are generally highest in basements and ground floor rooms in contact with soil.

How can radon levels in homes be reduced?

Methods to reduce the level of radon in your home vary in their complexity, effectiveness and cost.

The effectiveness of any one radon reduction method will depend upon the unique characteristics of your home, the evel of radon, the routes of the radon entry and how thoroughly the job is done.

There are some steps many homeowers can take immediately, often at little cost.

  • Seal cracks in basement floors and walls, and block air flow through sump pits and floor drainage holes
  • Increase ventilation in the house
  • Vent the space beneath the concrete floor to remove radon gas.

Radon concentrations vary from house to house and cannot be predicted.  Similar houses within a single neighbourhood can have indoor radon levels that vary significantly.  The only reliable method of determining the indoor radon concentration is to have it measured.
Methods for measuring radon in the home:

Most radon detectors are exposed to the air in the house for a specified period of time and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.  The most common types can be purchased and tested for approximately $100.00.

Contact the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada in Toronto, Ontario to order a home radon test kit.

1-800-263-5803
www.radiationsafety.ca

 

Last modified on Feb 28, 2017