Gas Causing Significant Health Risk Could be in Your Home
IS YOUR INDOOR ENVIRONMENT SAFE?
Are you aware that there is an extremely radioactive gas you cannot see, taste, or smell that potentially is present under your home? This gas is Radon and poses one of the most significant health risks to Canadians today and is responsible for an estimated 3,300 deaths each year in Canada. Recent estimates from Health Canada estimate that 16% of all lung cancer deaths are because of indoor Radon exposure. That makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer; first for non-smokers; being a smoker increases one’s risk of developing lung cancer if exposed to elevated levels of radon. Non-smokers who are only exposed to radon have a 1 in 20 chance of developing lung cancer whereas those who smoke have a 1 in 3 chance.
Radon is a carcinogenic, radioactive gas created from the decay of uranium in minerals present in rock, soil, and water. It is not naturally-occurring indoors but enters the indoor environment and contact with people as a result of the way homes, schools and workplaces are designed, constructed and maintained.
You cannot see, smell, or taste radon and it is extremely radioactive, emitting alpha radiation as it decays. Once inside the lungs, delicate tissues can be genetically damaged by radon decay products, and this can lead to the development of lung cancer.
ENTRY POINTS FOR RADON
3. Cracks in walls & floors
4. Loose pipe fittings & support posts
6. Wall & floor joints
RADON & YOUR HOME
Radon can seep into a home through pipes, windows, sumps, unfinished floors, cracks in foundation walls and floors —even through foundation walls. Remember, concrete is porous, and radon is a gas. That means it can penetrate through the tiny holes in a home’s foundation walls.
Of particular note, the plastic under your basement floor is also not a radon barrier and no matter how air tight your home might be Radon will still find its way in; in fact the more air tight, a new home is the higher the likely hood of high radon levels.
While we currently have a Radon map of Canada showing where radon is likely to be found, recent testing is showing that Radon can be present even in areas not previously noted. The building code has used the current mapping to require mitigation where Radon is indicated but does not require mitigation in areas that are shown to be clear on the map. West Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor are now known to have pockets of Radon.
TESTING FOR RADON
The only way to know if a home contains dangerous levels of Radon is to test for it, and the test can only be done once the home is closed in; proper testing generally takes between 10-30 days. Although there are test devices that can identify Radon in a shorter period, they will not identify the concentrations. Radon is unpredictable such that one house can have radon levels next to zero while the house next door can have levels that are off the charts.
Radon levels also fluctuate depending on the weather, humidity, the home’s construction, and the time of year. Winter is the best time to test for Radon because windows and doors tend to be kept shut during most of the season, which allows any toxins in the home to build up. Testing in the winter provides a good reading on indoor air quality and the Radon levels a household is exposed to.
Homeowners can purchase Radon test kits themselves, but testing for Radon can be difficult. For example, Radon detectors must be placed a certain distance away from interior walls, exterior walls, below the ceiling, and above the ground. Do it the wrong way and the test results can be compromised. Best to call in an expert to be safe.
Homeowners are encouraged to hire a professional to test for Radon, such as a home inspector certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP), in order to ensure accurate test results.
GETTING RID OF RADON
Reducing Radon levels in a home can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000. Some solutions involve installing a cap on sump pumps, boosting up the ventilation in the home with something like a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), or sealing cracks in the foundation and around pipes and drains. Sometimes these solutions are enough, but other times they are not.
The most effective way to reduce Radon levels in a home is through a process called sub-slab depressurization. It involves drilling a hole through the basement floor (concrete slab) and installing a pipe with a fan. The fan draws Radon gas from the ground and expels it through the pipe to a vent, usually located on the roof of the home.
If your home requires Radon mitigation, make sure you hire a contractor who is certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) and who has plenty of experience reducing radon levels in residential construction.
Exposure prevention is possible through increasingly advanced technologies. RDC works with Radon Environmental who is committed to bringing you technologies from around the globe to efficiently test and mitigate the risks in your dwelling.
Here are some of the Radon Environmental products we use and recommend:
Detection is low cost and is very simple to deploy.
This is a long term alpha track measurement device. This 90-365 day test is highly accurate and is not susceptible to humidity or levels of gamma radiation as some charcoal based devices are. Health Canada advocates a long term test before taking remediation action. It is deployed in the building and returned to a lab to be read. The results are presented in confidence electronically and the test results are held in the lab should any re-reading be required. This device gives you the average Radon level over the test period.
This is a short term alpha track measurement device. This 10-30 day test is very accurate and again is not susceptible to humidity or gamma radiation. It too is deployed in the building and returned to a lab to be read. The results are presented in confidence electronically and the results are held in the lab should any re reading be required. This device gives you the average radon level over the test period.
This is a simple Radon alarm. This highly sensitive device measures the Radon peaks and sounds and audible and visual alarm when it detects a peak of 150 Bq/m3. It comes to equilibrium very quickly and reacts within one hour - it often sounds within 15 minutes but is guaranteed to provide detection within one hour. This is an excellent device for post mitigation as well as for quick test to determine if further testing is required.
Radon Guard is a predominantly new construction mitigation product. It is a structural sub slab insulation panel that is engineered to create a better air flow below the slab while adding an insulation value and structural integrity to the slab. It is available in a range of R values for R8-R16.1. It is CCMC approved to replace the clear gravel layer under the slab so you have a cost offset in the savings of the expensive clear gravel layer. You still need a vent pipe that runs through the Radon Guard to the outside of the building but due to the 68% void space on the underside you need only one vent per 20,000 square feet.
This is a 20 mil engineered barrier membrane system that has the industry's lowest Radon diffusion coefficient. It is CCMC approved to replace the poly vapour barrier in the code. The poly barrier in the code blocks almost no Radon, even if it is taped and sealed.
This sensor and control device measures the Radon peaks in your home 24/7. It will pilot the HRV or ERV in your home when it detects high levels of Radon ( a peak of 150 Bq/m3). It reduces the Radon levels in your home 95-98% with a properly sized HRV or ERV and eliminates the need for sub slab depressurization.
RDC is committed to delivering safe and healthy homes to our clients. To that end we are now testing all of our renovations for the presence of Radon and will be ensuring that each of our new homes has the latest mitigation standards in place.
Healthy Homes, Happy Families.
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Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2018