A big thank you to Colin Dumais of Radon West for being our guest blogger today. Of the thousands of homes I have shown over the past 12 years in Calgary, I have only seen a handful with radon mitigation systems in place.
Colin provides a few facts below but can also provide testing and mitigation for your own home. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403.723.6665.
I hope that we will start to see more homes in Calgary be marketed with radon testing completed and mitigation in place where necessary!
Radon is a fascinating element – it’s a shame it happens to be the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Here is a list of 6 interesting things about radon gas that you probably weren’t aware of:
1 – Your house definitely has radon in it. Although not every home has high levels of radon, 100% of homes have some radon. This is because there is a small amount of radon present in outdoor air so there is no such thing as a radon-free house. The only question is how much radon you have.
2 – Although radon gas is heavier than air it will not settle out in your basement. This is because our homes have so much air movement due to the HVAC system, leaks in the envelope and movement of people that the air gets mixed around in a house very readily. We typically see about 15% less radon every time you move up a floor in a home. Not a big difference.
3 – The source of the radon gas is not far from the house. The movement of air through the ground is very slow and the half-life of radon is only 3.8 days so most of the radon in your home had to come from within about 20m of the house. In Alberta, the source is likely the glacial till which forms much of our surficial sediment.
4 – Radon is being produced from the ground in an essentially continuous unending supply. The rate of depletion of a radioactive source is governed by the element in the decay chain with the longest half-life. For radon this is Uranium 238 which has a half-life of about 4.5 billion years. Basically, the amount of radon being produced every second on your property is the same today as it has been for thousands of years.
5- Radon has only been known to be an issue in buildings for about 30 years. Although radon has been known about for a long time, nobody suspected that it could build up in homes. It wasn’t until the mid 1980’s when a worker on a nuclear power plant started setting off the radiation alarms at work was the source found to be high levels of radon from his home. In hindsight it seems obvious that homes would suck radon from the ground and concentrate it to high levels but it was a novel theory back in the 1980’s.
6 – Every home can be fixed. There is no such thing as a house that cannot have the radon levels reduced. The property is not contaminated and there is no reason to move. Fixes typically range from free to $3000. For cheap/free you could try running the furnace fan 24/7, make sure the basement supply registers are open, seal major cracks etc. At the higher end you can get a C-NRPP certified contractor to design/install an active radon system for huge reductions.