Is Radon is your home?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is colourless, odourless and tasteless. Radon comes from natural sources. It is a by-product formed when uranium decays. Uranium is found in small amounts in most types of soil and rock. The radon gas itself is not a problem, but it’s decay products are. The radioactive decay products are particles which can attach themselves to lung tissue when radon gas is inhaled.

Radon gas moves easily through loose soil and eventually reaches the surface. If radon emerges from the ground in an open area, the wind quickly disperses it. However, if it enters a building through openings in the foundation, it can accumulate, reaching levels that are 5 to 10 times higher than those outdoors.

Ill Effects

Miners have suffered Radon induced lung cancer for centuries, although it wasn’t until the 1940’s and early 50’s that it became clear that there was a definite link between radon exposure and lung cancer among U.S. miners. Since that time a large percentage of these workers have died of lung cancer. There are many homes in North America that have radon levels greater than those found in uranium mines.

Although all houses have some radon, it is important to realize that radon can vary greatly depending on environmental and seasonal variations. Your neighbour’s test results may differ from yours, because radon levels vary from house to house. Surveys conducted by Health and Welfare Canada have shown that houses with high levels were often located next door to similar houses with normal levels. Modern, tightly-sealed houses with little ventilation to disperse radon are supposedly more likely to have high levels than older, drafty ones, but newer homes may also be more effective at keeping radon out.

Does your home need a Radon Test?

Your home can be tested for radon very easily. Canadian Home Inspection Services Inc. is equipped to assess your home using short and long-term testing. The short term test takes only a few days, where radon is trapped and then analyzed in a laboratory. Doors and windows of the house would be closed before and during the test. Tests are better done at night and in winter, when concentrations tend to be higher.

This will often be enough to alert you of a potential problem or reassure you that you don’t have one.

A longer test is available, which should be made after receiving higher than normal levels in the short term test readings. This test sits in place for at least 6 months. For such long term tests the detector is usually placed in the home’s regular living areas.

Your Test Results. After testing your home, your Canadian Home Inspection Services inspector will talk to you about the results and explain the measures you can take to reduce Radon in your home.

Defense Against Radon

Besides cracks in walls, floors and gaps between the basement walls and floor, Radon can enter through wall openings for utility connections such as water, telephone and electricity.

Your first line of defense is to seal problem areas.

All cracks should be sealed. Radon can also emerge from open crawl spaces, exposed earth floors or open sumps — especially those connected to a drainage tile system. These should be covered.

Soil around the home can be ventilated so that Radon is drawn away before it enters the home.

As a more elaborate solution, you can cover foundation walls with two or more coats of epoxy based paint or a waterproofing compound.

When Radon levels exceed acceptable limits, the family should move out until a system of pipes and a fan to remove Radon-laden air can be installed to clean the air.

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