by Team Broady on Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Last week we covered a number of things to consider when it comes to maintaining a home. This week, we would like to shine a light on air contaminants in the home, particularly the dangers of radon, a radioactive gas that can pose health risks.

Air quality is critical to your health and your home should be equipped to detect any potential threats to your family. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are fully functional with fresh batteries. It’s also important to keep the inside of your home dry and to prevent moisture infiltration from leaks in the roof or cracks in the foundation. Even condensation due to poor insulation or air circulation can cause problems. And excessive moisture and humidity can cause mould growth, which can lead to a vast number of potential health risks and complications. Another common threat that we’ve all heard about is asbestos. This toxic substance can remain hidden for years in your attic or within the plaster compounds of old drywall materials. As long as it’s not disturbed, asbestos poses little to no danger, but if a home is undergoing renovations where asbestos fibres can become airborne, it can present serious health risks. 

However, perhaps the most important action you can take to protect the long-term health of your family from the dangers of air contaminants is to test your home for radon gas. 

What you need to know about radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and not concentrated enough to be harmful. However, in enclosed spaces, like basements in homes, it can accumulate to high levels and become a risk to your family's health.

Although uranium sounds like a rare, radioactive element that one might only find in a nuclear power plant, it is in fact a very common element found everywhere in the earth's crust. As a result, radon gas can be found in almost all homes in Canada. Concentrations differ significantly across the country but are usually higher in areas where there is more uranium in underlying rock and soil.
Radon concentration levels will vary from one house to another, even if they are similar in design and next door to each other. The only way to be sure of the radon level in your home is to test for it.
According to Health Canada, a safe guideline of 200 Bq/m3 (becquerels per cubic metre) or less is acceptable and not a threat to health. However, levels above this threshold can be considered quite dangerous. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. That means if you're a non-smoker (or not directly exposed to second-hand smoke), it's the number one cause of lung cancer! 
More and more health professionals are now recommending that everyone (yes, EVERYONE) have their home tested for radon levels. The concern is that this silent but deadly killer is lurking in far more places than we could imagine. 
In fact, Catherine was concerned enough to conduct a radon test in her own house prior to finishing her basement, knowing that her five-year-old son would likely be spending a lot of time playing down there once the work was complete. Luckily, her radon levels came back well within the safety guidelines recommended by Health Canada.

Testing for radon

Although radon testing can be outsourced to a trained and certified professional, the good news is that it is relatively easy and cost-effective to do yourself. Testing for radon can be done at a minimal cost and with little skill required. A long-term (three-month) radon testing kit is the most accurate way to find out if your home has dangerous levels. DIY test kits can be purchased for $30 to $50, with a return-address envelope included for mailing the device after the 90-day period. You then receive the laboratory results within a week or two. With today’s state-of-the-art gadgetry, there are also digital testing units with smartphone integration that start at $160 for basic devices and go up to $1,700 for the top models.

What to do if radon levels are high

Fortunately, the solution to a radon problem is rather simple and relatively affordable. If your home’s radon levels are high, contact a certified radon service professional, who will take the time to explain the mitigation process and provide you with an estimate for equipment installation. 

Radon gas is mitigated and controlled using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air exchange in the building. Basically, a hole is drilled in your basement floor, usually in the far back corner of your furnace room or storage area, then a fan and some PVC piping to vent the gas to the home’s exterior are installed. In some cases, this set-up can even be integrated into your existing sump-pump pit. The pipes might look similar to the exhaust vents for a natural-gas heating system. 

The cost for such systems can range between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on the configuration of the home. Mitigation measures taken to fix your radon levels will not only protect your family’s long-term health, they may actually increase your home’s value as well.

At TEAM BROADY, we have plenty of experience dealing with radon concerns and we understand that a healthy home is essential to your well-being. Do not hesitate to contact us today about any real estate questions or for help with your home buying / selling needs at 514-613-2988 or by email at info@teambroady.ca.