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Recent scientific studies have linked an increased risk of developing lung cancer to exposure to radon at levels found inside some Canadian homes. The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to test your home.
Radon is a gas produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soils and rocks that occurs naturally in the environment. You can't see, smell or taste radon. The Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air was revised in 2007. It recommends that:
When radon gas escapes from the ground outdoors it gets diluted and does not pose a health risk. However, in some confined spaces, like homes, radon can accumulate to relatively high levels and become a health hazard.
Long-term exposure to high levels of radon in the home may increase the risk of developing lung cancer. For smokers, the combination of smoking and exposure to radon can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon exposure is linked to roughly 16% of lung cancer deaths in Canada, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Some amount of radon gas can be found in almost all homes that are in contact with the ground.
Radon can seep into a home through:
Radon moves easily through concrete-block walls because they are so porous. Also, radon trapped in water from wells can be released into the air when the water is used.
Health Canada conducted a cross-Canada survey of 14,000 homes in 2009 and 2010. Results showed that:
Factors that affect radon levels in the home include:
Testing a home for radon is easy and inexpensive. There are two options:
If you choose to buy a radon test kit, you must closely follow the instructions on how to set up the test. Radon test kits can be purchased over the phone, on the internet, or from home improvement stores. The kits include instructions on how to set up the radon test and how to send it back to a lab for analysis when the testing period is over. The cost of testing ranges from $25 to $75. If you hire a service provider, you should make sure they are certified and will conduct a long-term test.
The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to test your home. If the radon level is high, take action to reduce it. The higher the level, the sooner it needs to be fixed.
Reducing radon in a home is easy and reasonably priced. Steps you can take include:
The standard method for reducing radon in a home is called active soil depressurization. It's usually done by a contractor. A pipe is installed through the foundation floor and is connected to the outside. A fan attached to the pipe draws radon from under the home, before it gets inside, and releases it outside, where it gets diluted.
Radon professionals can help you determine the best way to reduce the radon level in your home. To find a certified radon professional in Canada go to the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) or call 1-800-269-4174 (toll free).
In 2010, new National Building Codes were introduced to protect against radon. These new codes require new homes to have a vapour barrier to reduce the entry of radon. They also require a 'rough-in' for a radon reduction system. The rough-in will significantly lower costs if action has to be taken later to reduce radon levels in the home.
The National Radon Program was developed and implemented in 2008 to support the revised Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air. The program consists of five components:
Health Canada works in partnership with the provinces and territories, as well as other key stakeholders in all aspects of the National Radon Program.
Find a radon professional in your area through the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP)
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Updated: April 2012
Original: March 2002
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2012
Catalogue # H13-7/119-2012E-PDF
ISBN # 978-1-100-20498-7