What is Radon and should you care?

    Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breaking down of uranium in soil, rocks and water. It is believed to be in all homes in Canada BUT at varying levels. Alberta and Calgary are classified as a Zone 1 which means the Hazard level for Radon is High and hence it is recommended homeowners test for Radon levels. Between 209-2011 Health Canada conducted a survey of radon levels and found in the worst provinces 20% of homes had high radon levels.

    How does radon penetrate your home?

    Since radon is a gas it can penetrate through concrete foundation walls or slabs. It can also enter through unfinished floors, floor drains, sumps, gaps around service pipes and/or window casements

    Dangers of high levels of radon

    If your home does contain unusually high levels of Radon then you are subjecting yourself to potential long-term health risks. It is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada and is estimated to cause 16% of the lung cancer deaths. Saying that the risks of developing lung canceer from radon depends on:

    • The concentration levels of radon in the aris
    • Duration of exposure to radon: and
    • Whether the person is a smoker.

    How are homes tested?

    The easiest way is to purchase a do-it-yourself kit. The test requires a period of minimum 3 months, best conducted over the winter months (November-March) for accuracy purposes.   Short term tests do exist, however longer-term test provide a more representative annual average for radon exposure.

    You can order your test from Health Canada at radon@hc-sc.gc.ca or 1-866-225-0709

    What to do if radon levels are high?

    Excessive radon levels can be successfully mitigated in every type of home. Examples of ways to fix the issue are:

    1. Sub-Slab Depressurization (SSD): as the title would suggest, the technique involves a piping system and radon fan in order to extract radon and other soil gases from benetath the home and discharge them outdoors. When installed correctly it can reduce radon levels by up to 95%.
    2. Sub-Membrane Depresurization (SMD): is used when an exposed soil/rock crawlspace exists in the basement or a sealed crawlspace (Not very commone in Calgary)
    3. Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV): HRV can be used when there are several air quality concerns and the house is equipped with an HVAC system. An HRV system exchanges interior and exterior air while saving on the costs associated with heating or cooling the exchanged air. These systems are not as effective and they rely on continuous maintence of the system.

    Mitigation costs

    There are several factors that will affect the cost of any one of the mitigating systems but one can expect the cost to be similar to any other home improvement, expect to pay some where in the neighborhood of $2500-4500.   If the system is necessary the money will be well spent, not to mention when you go to sell the place it should be well received by the potential buyer.

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