Radon

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Lung cancer is the #1 cause of cancer death in both men and women. So it is no wonder health authorities take any cause of lung cancer very seriously and that includes radon gas.

Radon gas is a serious issue, but, it depends where you live and for the majority of the lower mainland there is good news that the levels of gas are systematically lower than many other places in Canada.

What is Radon and Where Does it Come From?

Radon is a colourless and odourless gas that forms naturally in the earth from decaying uranium. It seeps through the earth and is dispelled into the air. The amount of radon gas in an area is 100% dependent on the makeup of the soil and rocks and the amount of decaying uranium present.

Why is Radon a Problem for Homes?

Radon is heavier than air so as it rises from the earth, it will tend to pool in low places such as basements and crawlspaces. The higher the parts per million, the greater the health risk of exposure. Radon finds its way into homes through cracks in foundations, poor seams, and open pipes.

Where is Radon a Problem for Homes?

RadonTerrestrialMapsofBC2007

BCCDC Radon Concentration Chart for BC (click for full size image)

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has conducted 2 major surveys in BC municipalities and found that the highest risk areas in BC are in the interior mountain ranges. Areas near Nelson to Castlegar and Kamloops to Clearwater represent some of the highest detected concentrations of this gas.

In BC’s lower mainland where our services are primarily located, we have amount the lowest reported levels of this gas naturally occurring. In fact, the BCCDC when it conducted its second survey of Radon gas in schools, it did not even test lower mainland schools.

Link to BCCDC Radon Information : http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/health-your-environment/contaminants/radon

Does a Home Inspection Look for Radon Gas?

A home inspection is a VISUAL non-invasive inspection. As Radon gas can only be identified using laboratory equipment using air quality testing systems, it is not possible for home inspectors to detect this gas. As levels of radon gas depend on the makeup of soil and rocks under the surface, it is also not possible for home inspectors to comment on the ‘risk’ of it being present. Your home inspection report will be silent about radon gas although some inspectors may advise independent testing out of an abundance of caution.

Who Can test for Radon Gas?

There are many air quality specialists who can do this type of work all across BC. If you are worried about air quality, this is a service that can be ordered separate of a home inspection. Be aware that the lab tests and sample procedures can add many days if not weeks to get results.

What Can be Done if there are High Levels of Radon Gas in a Home?

This is an area for expert advise but it typically comes down to eliminating the sources of gas entering the home. This can be done through sealants, vapour barriers, and ventilation and then further monitoring. If you have radon gas in the home, you need to talk to experts about reducing your risks to exposure.

Final Thoughts

With our home inspection business primarily located in the lower mainland of BC, for the majority of our clients, radon should be a low risk issue which is outside the scope of the services we provide. However, the science on this gas is still developing and risk assessments may change in time. For now, it is best potential home buyers be aware of this issue and if you feel you need your air tested, to call an expert.

By James Bell - Author | Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc