There are many things about a home’s condition that even a first-time home buyer naturally considers before the deed is signed.
Water damage. Structural integrity. Faulty wiring. Cracks, stains and warping of surfaces. Faced with an already lengthy list of obvious and visible architectural flaws to look for, it’s not surprising that something like air quality is rarely at the forefront of a homebuyer’s mind. But it should be and radon is why.
The radioactive gaseous result of uranium breaking down into soil, water or rock, radon can enter the home through cracks and holes in the foundation, support posts, floor drains, construction joints and other entry points. Measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), radon exists in low levels in most environments, with an average outdoor level of 10 Bq/m3 and indoor level of 45 Bq/m3, a difference explained by the build-up of radon that confined spaces allow. But it’s when levels reach the government’s guideline of 200 Bq/m3 that homeowners need to take action.
According to Health Canada, radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. Worse, like carbon monoxide, radon is tasteless, odourless and invisible. Fortunately, radon has finally started to gain the attention among health officials and homeowners it deserves, inspiring a two-year 2009 study by Health Canada. It found approximately seven per cent of Canadian homes have high levels of radon. Homeowners now have multiple options to test for and mitigate excessive levels of radon.
Owing to the detrimental health effects of heavy levels of radon, officials recommend that homeowners have their house tested before or just after move-in. To determine if a house has an unhealthy level of radon, homeowners should hire a certified radon measurement professional like a qualified home inspector to ensure that their home is accurately tested. Both short-term and long-term tests are available, with the former taking as little as two days and the latter lasting as long as several months.
If a test indicates unacceptably high levels of radon, homeowners are advised to consult a professional radon mitigation service, which can provide recommendations for how to best deal with the situation. Methods to lessen the amount of radon include sealing suspected entry points, improving ventilation and venting air from the house back into the soil to reduce the amount of radon that can enter the home, a process known as soil depressurization. Already besieged with a host of home problems to be mindful of, homeowners will doubtless view the issue of radon as yet another obstacle standing in the way of stress-free homeownership. Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant of the presence of radon in any home. An estimated 3,000 Canadians die each year from exposure to excessive levels of radon. Take the time now to ensure that you won’t be one of them.