Radon Gas is a hidden health risk in many Canadian homes. Somewhere around 25% of homes surveyed in Ontario from 2009-2013 had concentrations of radon gas that were above safety guidelines issued by the World Health Organization - but if you were to poll your neighbours, how many would know about radon gas? Recent awareness campaigns have sought to educate us about radon gas and its danger to our health, but most Canadians are still unaware of radon gas, and how radon testing can help you make your home a healthier and safer place to be.
If this is the first you’ve ever heard of radon, you’re not alone. You’ve never smelled it, seen it, or tasted it, even though you’ve likely come across it. Radon is a radioactive gas that’s found naturally in the environment and is formed when uranium buried deep in the earth breaks down. Usually, radon gas makes its way up through the soil and rocks and disperses into the atmosphere, but it can collect in homes and businesses, which is when it can start causing serious health problems. The risk of radon gas varies geographically, but, since there are no safe exposure levels, testing for radon is critically important for long term health.
Radon is a known carcinogenic and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smoking Canadians. If you’re also a smoker, your risk increases exponentially - Health Canada suggests that 1 in 3 people who smoke and are exposed to high levels of radon will develop cancer.
The risk of cancer from radon exposure is long term and depends on three different factors: the level of radon, how long your exposure is, and what your smoking habits are. Cancer that develops from radon exposure typically takes many years or decades to appear, but in some people, like children or those with existing lung conditions, that timeline may be shorter.
Radon gas usually moves through the earth and disperses into the atmosphere. However, radon can reach dangerous levels in our homes, which unwittingly act like radon magnets. For starters, our basements and foundations create a negative pressure, which attracts the gas. Once it’s at your home, cracks in your foundation or slab, construction joints or pipes, windows, or floor drains can all create space for the radon to come in.
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