Radon in Your Home

What is radon?
How can I be exposed?

What are the health implications?

What can I do?
What are the acceptable concentrations?
How can I fix my radon problem?
How soon to take action to reduce the radon level?
Research / Resources 

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released when uranium in soil and/or rock breaks down. Radon is invisible, odourless and tasteless. Radon does not tend to be a health issue outdoors, as atmospheric mixing dilutes the gas to low concentrations.  However, in a confined space – like a basement – radon can accumulate to high levels, which can present a health risk.   

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How can I be exposed?

How radon enters a house: Radon can seep into a building through dirt floors, cracks in foundations or concrete, sump pumps, joints and basement drains.  Well water can also contain trapped radon, which may be released into the air when water is drawn.

© Department of Natural Resources Canada. All rights reserved.

Radon can seep into a building through dirt floors, cracks in foundations or concrete, sump pumps, joints and basement drains.  Well water can also contain trapped radon, which may be released into the air when water is drawn.

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What are the health implications?

When a radioactive gas, like radon, is inhaled, it naturally breaks down into radioactive particles that can be trapped in your lungs when you breathe in. This may cause damage to lung tissue, which can develop into lung cancer over the course of a lifetime.

The health risks from radon exposure are long-term and often depend on three things:

  1. The level of radon in your home or building
  2. The length of time you are exposed to radon
  3. Your smoking habits or exposure to second-hand smoke

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What can I do?

Studies by Health Canada have shown that radon concentrations vary a great deal across Canada, making it impossible to predict radon levels in any one home or building. The only way to know if you are being exposed to radon gas is to test for it. Testing for radon is easy and affordable. Health Canada suggests that you use a long-term radon detector for a minimum of three months.
There are two options to test buildings for radon:

  1. Do-it-yourself radon test kit
    Can be purchased over the internet, at local hardware, home improvement, or building supply stores, or from Ottawa Public Health*
    The cost of testing ranges from $25 - $170
    *to purchase a kit from Ottawa Public Health, please call: 613-580-6744
  2. Hire a radon testing company
    For a list of certified Canadian radon testing companies consult the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) or call 1-855-722-6777.

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What are the acceptable concentrations?

The current Health Canada guideline for radon in indoor air for dwellings is 200 Becquerels per cubic metre, or less.

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How can I fix my radon problem?

If a long term radon detection test shows a living or active space to be above the Canadian guideline of 200 Becquerels/m3, Health Canada and Ottawa Public Health recommend that home or building owners consult a certified radon professional to determine the best radon reduction plan to lower radon levels. The concentration of radon gas will determine how quickly you should lower your radon exposure - the higher the level of radon gas in a building, the faster you should take action to reduce your exposure.

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How soon to take action to reduce the radon level?

>600 Bq/m³ - Remediate within 1 year 200 - 600 Bq/m³ - Remediate within 2 years <200 Bq/m³ - No action required
Sick house Sad house Happy house

Contact the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program at 1-800-269-4174 or visit the following website for a list of certified radon professionals who can help reduce the level of radon in your home.

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Research

Health Canada, Cross-Canada Survey of Radon Concentrations in Homes – Final Report
Public Health Ontario, Radon Burden of Illness

Resources

Health Canada – Radon
How to Fix the Problem?
Canadian Lung Association
 
Canadian – National Radon Proficiency Program

Contact information
For more information contact
Ottawa Public Health: 613 580 6744

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