Radon: An invisible radioactive gas that causes cancer

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Health and Wellness

When there is an obvious danger in your home, like a water leak or a fire, you do what you can to fix it. But some dangers are not visible to the human eye. Radon gas is one such hazard that could be lurking in your home undiscovered and according to Health Canada, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Here’s the scoop on what it is, why it’s so dangerous, how to find out if it’s a problem in your house and what you can do to fix it.

What is radon?
You can’t see it or smell it. Radon is an invisible radioactive gas formed by the natural breakdown of uranium in the ground. In outdoor air the gas naturally disperses quickly and is not a concern. But, when it seeps into enclosed spaces like your home, it can accumulate to a level that becomes a serious health risk over a long time. In fact, about eight people a day die from lung cancer every year in Canada due to radon exposure. It’s not something to take lightly.

Is your home safe?
Some amount of radon exists in every building in Canada, and that’s normal. But the only way to know if your home has a dangerous level of radon gas is to test for it.

A do-it-yourself kit costs roughly $30 to $60, or you can hire a professional to measure for you. Either way, Health Canada recommends using a long-term test over three months, ideally during fall and winter. You can get a more accurate reading this time of year because the amount of radon in your home can vary over time, but it’s typically highest in the colder months. Homes are usually sealed up more tightly against drafts in fall and winter, so less of the gas can disperse out of open windows and doors.

What can you do about radon?
If your test result is below the limit, you can rest easy. The government recommends testing again if you do any major renovations or energy efficiency retrofits, as this can increase your radon level.

If your test shows a high level of radon, then it’s important to reduce it to lower your long-term risk of lung cancer. You can hire a certified radon mitigation professional to install a radon reduction system. Typically, it’s a one-day job with similar costs to getting a new home appliance.

Find more information about radon gas, as well as lists of certified test kits and professionals, at takeactiononradon.ca

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