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Are you at risk? 1 in 8 Calgary Homes Show Alarming Levels of Radon Gas

Last week University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine released a new study about dangerous levels of radon gas in Calgary and Southern Alberta homes. The study proved that one in eight Calgary homes exceeds what is considered “acceptable” levels of radon by Heath Canada’s standards.

What is radon gas?

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is odourless, colourless, and tasteless - so by all accounts it is virtually undetectable. It is produced by the breakdown of uranium found in sediment (soil), rocks and water. When radon is released into the atmosphere it gets diluted and poses little to no risk to human health. That said, if radon accumulates inside a home it can pose serious health risks to occupants.

What are the dangers of excessive indoor radon levels?

When left unattended, high levels of radon in a home can create severe long-term health risks for residents. When inhaled, radon gas particles remain in lung tissue - over time, cell damage caused by radon can lead to the development of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and it is estimated that 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths among Canadians are linked to indoor radon exposure.

How do I know if there is radon in my home?

Determining if you/your home are at risk is not an easy process. Heath Canada advocates long-term testings (performed over a three month period or longer) to get the most accurate measure of indoor radon. While it sounds daunting, radon testing is relatively inexpensive and can be done by homeowners. Radon levels can be surprisingly different from house to house, even adjacent homes can have drastically different levels. For this reason, Health Canada recommends all homes be tested, regardless of the age of the home.

How does radon enter a home?

Radon can sneak into your home in a few different ways, such as through cracks in the foundation walls and/or floor slabs or other openings including but not limited to:

- unfinished floors (dirt)
- construction joints
- gaps around service pipes
- support posts
- windows
- floor drains
- sumps
- cavities inside walls

The type of soil, soil moisture level, seasonal freezing and thawing activity and the homes design can all play a part in letting radon in as well.

But I live in a new home, so am I safe?

Several studies confirm new homes can also have high levels of radon. Sometimes, new-builds are constructed with radon-resistant features, but that does not guarantee that a low indoor radon level won’t persist. Testing is recommended in all properties to ensure that systems are functioning correctly. When new homes are first occupied, homeowners should conduct a long term radon test - this may even be covered under a new home warranty program in some instances.

How do I get my home tested?

Testing your home for radon is relatively easy and inexpensive and it is highly recommended by Heath Canada that homeowners take the necessary steps to ensure that they are not at risk. There are two options: you can purchase a do-it-yourself kit or hire a professional.

DIY kits include instruction on how to property execute the test and submit the results for professional analysis. Test kits can be purchased by phone, online, or from several home improvement retailers and generally cost between $25-$75 - well worth the investment.

What do I do if my home shows high indoor radon levels?

If indoor radon levels in your home exceed safe levels, remedial measures are available and vary based on the type of home and its location. The higher the radon level, the sooner you should take action.

Excessive radon levels can be successfully mitigated in every type of home! However, it is best to consult with a professional to determine the best course of action for your home.

For more resources, we suggest checking out these links:

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