Radon Gas

QUESTION:"Is it true that some homes in the Ottawa area may be exposed to Radon Gas?"

ANSWER

Yes it is. There are some areas of Ottawa ( Kanata, Stittsville) and near Chelsea Quebec to name just a few, where Radon Gas levels have been found to be quite high.

Home Inspectors® offers radon specific information booklets and contact pages to all of our clients who are either interested in purchasing or own homes in radon effected areas around the capital.

There have been several articles in the Media lately warning of the possible health risks to some area residents.

Testing for Radon can best be acheived by purchasing a test "kit" from a reputable supplier such as Bubble Technogies in Chalk River Ontario www.bubbletech.ca . This company offer an excellent test kit (AT-100) for approx $58.00 + S/H + GST. This test kit should ideally be placed in the basement of a home for a period of 6-12 months for optimum results that will allow for seasonal fluctuations. While air "grab samples" may be collected in the case of a home  purchase, by a reputable Indoor Air Quality company. Test results from same day or short-term testing may not be as accurate as long term results. Something as simple as someone opening a basement window in a home, can seriously alter the outcome of a radon test.

It should also be mentioned that homes that experience readings of high levels of radon gas, can be rectified. There are numerous remedial actions that offer excellent solutions to sealing homes to radon gas as well as diverting or venting solutions. Costs may vary but generally range from $2500 - $5000 for remediation.

Below is an article from Health Canada which explains the possible risk and proceedures to take.

 

Radon

(directly from Health Canada)

The Issue

Exposure to high levels of radon increases the risk of developing lung cancer. This correlation has prompted concern that radon levels in some Canadian homes may pose a health risk.

Background

Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium, and can be found in high concentrations where soils and rocks contain uranium, granite, shale, or phosphate. Radon can also be found in soils contaminated with certain types of industrial wastes, such as the by-products of uranium or phosphate mining.

The Health Effects of Radon

In the open air, the amount of radon gas is so minimal that it does not pose a health risk. However, in confined spaces like mines radon gas can accumulate in relatively high levels and can become a health hazard. The only known health effect associated with exposure to high levels of radon is an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Because it is radioactive, radon decays. As it decays, it produces decay products, sometimes called "radon daughters" or "radon progeny." Two of these progeny, polonium-218 and polonium-214, decay rapidly themselves, and emit alpha particles. When alpha particles hit an object, the energy in them is absorbed by the surface of the object. Human skin is thick enough not to be affected, but if you breathe in alpha particles, they can damage bronchial and lung tissue, and can lead to lung cancer.

In the 1970s, studies of the incidence of lung cancer in Canada among uranium miners showed a correlation between radon exposure and deaths from lung cancer. Although there is no evidence proving a direct link between radon levels in the home and lung cancer, Health Canada scientists have indicated that elevated levels of radon in the home could also pose a risk.

Radon in the Home

Radon gas can move through small spaces in the soil and rock upon which a house is built. It can seep into a home through dirt floors, cracks in concrete walls and floors, sumps, joints, basement drains, under the furnace base, and jack posts if the base is buried in the floor. Concrete-block walls are particularly porous to radon, and radon trapped in water from wells can be released into the air when the water is used.

A survey conducted by Health Canada in the 1970s showed that radon levels in certain Canadian cities were higher than in others. However, these same studies showed that it is impossible to predict whether any one house will have a high level of radon. Factors such as the location of the house and its relation to the prevailing wind may be just as important as the source of the radon.

Measuring Radon Levels in the Home

Commercial services are available to homeowners who wish to measure radon levels in their homes. Radon is measured in units called "becquerels per cubic metre." The most popular radon detectors are the charcoal canister and the alpha track detector. Both of these devices are exposed to the air in a home for a specified period of time, and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. There are other techniques for testing radon levels, but they require a trained operator and are more expensive.

Minimizing Your Risk

Health Canada's studies show that radon pollution is not widespread in Canadian homes. Less than one-tenth of one per cent of all homes in Canada have radon levels that exceed the recommended guideline. However, if you are concerned about exposure to radon gas in your home, you might consider testing the levels, and/or taking the following steps to reduce radon levels:

Renovate existing basement floors, particularly earth floors
Seal cracks and openings in walls and floors, and around pipes and drains
Ventilate the sub-floor of basement floors

Health Canada's Role

Health Canada has taken a number of steps to minimize the health effects of radon exposure. These include evaluating measurement techniques, developing guidelines and conducting research into all aspects of radon gas.

Although provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over the health effects of background radiation, Health Canada has recommended that the guideline for exposure to radon gas should be 800 becquerels per cubic metre as the annual average concentration in a normal living area. The guideline is an upper limit, and Health Canada recommends taking action to reduce radon levels in your home if they exceed the limit. Because there is some risk at any level of radon exposure, homeowners may want to reduce their exposure to radon, regardless of levels.

Population studies based on a survey of 14,000 homes in 19 Canadian cities in the 1970s showed no evidence of a correlation between radon levels in homes and lung cancer. Health Canada conducted a case-control study of lung cancer in relation to exposure to radon in homes in Winnipeg during 1983B1990. Winnipeg was selected because it had the highest levels of indoor radon of the cities surveyed in earlier studies. When the data was analyzed, there was no evidence of an increased risk of lung cancer as a result of residential exposure to radon.


Need More Info?

Health Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have produced a booklet called Radon A Guide for Canadian Homeowners.

For a copy, visit:
http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/burema/gesein/raguacho_001.cfm
or call 1-800-668-2642.

 

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