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RADON – The Invisible Threat to Indoor Health

As winter approaches, most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors, in homes that are sealed up from the cooling temperatures outside. But just how healthy is the air that we’re breathing in? The summer months brought us wildfire smoke, which at least we can visibly see as “dirty”. There is another potential risk that we all need to be aware of that we can’t see or smell – a highly radioactive gas called Radon.

Radon Health Facts

Here are some facts about Radon that we all should know about:

  • Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers. Radon induced lung cancer kills more than house fires and carbon monoxide combined.
  • Almost half of the radiation we are exposed to through our lives is in the form of radon.
    • 42% Radon
    • 18% Ground
    • 14% Cosmic rays
    • 11% Food and drink
    • 15% Artificial sources
  • Radon is the most harmful form of radiation (Alpha), and is inhaled, therefore directly contacting living cells, potentially damaging their DNA.
  • 1 in 30 adults are fundamentally radon sensitive.
  • Radon is 10x more dangerous for children.

Radon in Homes

The Radon concentration within buildings is often much greater than outside, as it is captured and contained in our homes.  It seeps in through foundation cracks, penetrations, around pipes, and through unsealed sumps, therefore air tightness has an impact on Radon infiltration. Amounts of concentration will fluctuate depending on outdoor temperatures, wind, barometric pressure, and shifting soil.

Source: Department of Natural Resources Canada

Where is Radon Most Present in Alberta?

Radon levels vary significantly across Canada, but there are areas of the country where high levels of indoor radon are more prevalent.  Approximately 7% of homes have high Radon levels.  The red squares on the map below show high risk zones. Did you know that Edmonton and Calgary are both in high-risk zones? 

Source: https://radonmap.com/

How Much Radon is Dangerous?

According to Health Canada, Radon levels below 200 Bq/m3 are safe.  Levels between 200-600 Bq/m3 are recommended to be reduced within two years, while levels above 600 Bq/m3 are recommended to be reduced within one year. The highest concentration is almost always in the basement, the area where Radon seeps in.

How Do We Measure Radon Levels?

Effect Home Builders recommends that homes have a continuous air quality sensor.  There are two models, in particular, that work very well:

  • Airthings Wave Plus
    • Measures Radon, Temperature, Humidity, VOC’s, Atmospheric Pressure, and CO2.
    • Connects to Smartphone via Bluetooth.
    • Smart home compatible.
    • Readings available on phone app or webpage dashboard.

  • Airthings View Plus
    • Acts as a Hub and allows expansion of system to bring additional monitors online.
    • Measures Radon, Particulate Matter, Temperature, Humidity, VOC’s, Atmospheric Pressure, and CO2.
    • WIFI connected.
    • Smart home compatible.
    • Readings available also on phone app or webpage dashboard.

Radon Mitigation Strategies

When called upon to rid a house of Radon, first ensure that the home has a proper air quality monitor.  Once you know the long-term levels, you can determine if a Radon fan is required.  If Radon is present there are primarily two mitigation strategies:

  1. Increased ventilation
    • Using the Heat Recovery Ventilator at higher frequency and speed.
  2. Radon Mitigation Fan
    • Installing Radon fan in basement, connected to pre-installed underslab pipe or into sealed sump, then vented to the outdoors.
    • Can be automated to engage at unsafe levels and turn off when levels are safe.

Here is a video of Mike Holmes and The Lung Association of Ontario speaking about the risks of Radon and the best was to address the concern.

For all our new homes we recommend including:

  • Connection of under slab pipe to exterior termination pipe.
  • Installation of Fantech Inline Radon Fan.
  • Installation of Swidget Smart-Ready Switch.
  • Automation of Radon fan operation. This requires connection to WIFI and homeowner to create account and download app.

Healthy homes are our highest priority and it is crucial that homeowner’s are aware of potential Radon risks. The good news is that Radon problems can be fixed.

Effect Home Builders

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