Radon and your health

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. Radon exposure is estimated to be the cause of 16% of lung cancers. Radon decays quickly, giving off tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these radioactive particles can damage the cells that line the lung. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer.

If you live in a building with high radon levels or if you spend a lot of time in one, you are at higher risk for lung cancer.

If you smoke and you live in a home with a high level of radon, you are at an even higher risk for lung cancer.

What is radon gas?

Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can seep into your home through cracks in floors, walls and foundations. You can't see radon. You can't smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. Radon gas escapes from the ground into the air outside. When radon mixes with the air outside, it’s not a problem: the air outside dilutes the amount of radon. But when radon seeps into a closed-in space like a house, it can be harmful. The radon gas can become trapped inside. You and your family can breathe in high levels of radon without knowing it.

You should test your home for radon, an invisible gas that can cause lung cancer. Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. Contact your local Lung Association  to find out where you can get may have a radon test kit for you.  If your home has high radon levels, you can repair it to block the radon.

How does radon get in your house?

Radon can come out of the soil and water and seep into cracks and openings in your home, especially on the lower floor, basement, or crawlspace. Radon gas can get into your home through many openings, including:

  • unfinished floors
  • pipes
  • windows
  • sump pumps
  • cracks in the basement floor or foundation

Radon can get trapped inside your home, especially in basements and crawlspaces that don’t have good ventilation (air flow).

What you can do about radon

Test for Radon

The only way to know if your home has radon is to test for it. You can’t see, smell, or taste radon.
To test for radon, you buy a radon detector from your local Lung Association  or your local hardware store. Just be sure to get a long- term radon test.

Follow the instructions that come with your radon test.
In general, you:

  • Put the test device on the lowest level of your house that you use regularly (the level where you spend four hours a day or more). This could be your basement or your main floor.
  • Make sure the test device is in a safe place, where it won’t get knocked over.
  • Leave the test device in place for at least three months.
  • Mail the test device to the company’s laboratory. The test will come with a mailing label and package. All you have to do is put the test device in the package and drop it in a post box.
  • The company will analyze test device in their laboratory and mail you the results.

When should I test for radon?

It’s best to test for radon over the winter months, when there is less ventilation (less air movement) in your home.

Radon test results

What you do depends on how much radon there is. Radon is measured in becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

  • If your home’s radon level is less than 200 Bq/m3, Health Canada radon guidelines say that no action is required. However, even low levels of radon can be harmful. It’s a good idea to try to lower your home’s radon level as much as possible, even if it’s already below 200 Bq/m3.
  • If your home’s radon level is between 200 and 600 Bq/m3, you should repair your home in the next two years.
  • If your home’s radon level is over 600 Bq/m3, you should repair your home within one year.

Reduce radon levels in your home

To lower the radon level, you need to hire a contractor to:

  • Figure out where the radon is coming in
  • Complete repairs to block it from coming in

Radon can come into your home through: sump pumps, cracks in foundations, spaces around pipes, unfinished floors, and other places. To solve your radon problem, you need an expert to find out where exactly the radon is getting in. A trained contractor with experience in radon mitigation (radon repairs) can examine your home, find where the radon is seeping in, and make the necessary repairs.

Find a trained contractor with experience in radon mitigation

You should hire an experienced, reputable contractor to mitigate your home. Contact Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP)  at 1-855-722-6777 or visit the Take Action on Radon website for a list of certified service providers who can help reduce the level of radon in your home.

Are there any grants or programs that cover the cost of radon testing or mitigation (repairs)?

No, unfortunately. We are not aware of any grants to cover the cost of radon testing or mitigation.

What if I rent my home? Can I ask my landlord to test for radon?

We do not know of any specific laws that force private landlords to test for radon or make repairs. If you rent, you could ask your landlord to test for radon. If your landlord refuses, you could try testing for radon yourself. After you get the results, share them with the landlord. If the results say your rental home does have a high level of radon, ask your landlord to hire a radon mitigation contractor.

Get more information on radon

To learn how to fix a radon problem, visit the Take Action on Radon website.

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Page Last Updated: 26/03/2015