Radon Gas – Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

radon gas
radon gas

I’ve started this blog to encourage people to look into the levels of radon gas in their homes, and I suggest you read what I have found for your own as well as your family’s health.

 Radon gas – an odorless, colorless gas that is produced by the radioactive decay of the element radium.  It is used in medicine for radiotherapy, but also accumulates, from natural sources, in buildings and deteriorates indoor air quality. The problem arises in an enclosed space with little ventilation, such as a basement. According to the US Surgeon General’s office, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

I myself currently reside in the interior British Columbia. I moved here about three years ago from Edmonton, Alberta, to help my folks with their business and ended up living in our developed spacious basement, with my own bedroom, living room and bathroom. I had never heard of radon before, and I happened to overhear about it through our friends in Calgary. Initially I did not pay attention to it, until later on I saw something about it on television, at which point I started getting more curious. I began an extensive research and ended up finding many government health sites in Canada and around the world, including the States, Europe and Asia that warned against the possible risks of excessive radon. Surprisingly, I have found that interior British Columbia had quite heavy concentrations of radon, but even more surprising was the fact that the federal and provincial governments in Canada do not seem to take this issue as seriously as everywhere else in the world.  What also surprised me about Canada is that until recently, there wasn’t any real agreement as to what the safe levels of radon gas in our homes should be, well besides that any levels above 20pci/L should warrant a radon mitigation, whereas in other countries, the general agreement is that any level above 4pci/L should be mitigated. In fact in some states south of our border a house cannot be sold if its radon gas level is above the 4pci/l mark. I eventually found this on a BC health site, which indicates that the Canadian Government is picking up on this:

“The guideline “Action Level” of 800 Bq/m³ (20 pCi/l) was adopted in 1988. In 2006, Canada’s Federal Provincial Territorial Radiation Protection Committee (FPTRPC) recommended a revised guideline with a lower action level of 200 Bq/m (approximately 5.4 pCi/l), which was adopted by Health Canada.”

What really bothers me, even today, is the lack of information from our government about this problem. You can go to different websites and find information on the subject, however, most people are completely unaware of radon at all. What eventually prompted me to purchase a radon detector was a lot of hearsay about people dying of cancer in my area. I figured living in the BC mountains would be a nice way to live a very healthy lifestyle, with the fresh crisp air and no real sources of pollution for miles away. Then one of our neighbors died suddenly of lung cancer. She died within three months of finding out, and she was a non-smoker. I scoured the internet for good testing kits and finally decided purchasing an electric radon tester (Safety Siren Pro-3 Radon Gas Detector Monitor Tester) from the states. With it I found that during the summer months the levels in our basement were hovering anywhere between 8-12 pCi/l, way above the recommended values according to most research I’ve done. In the winter time, when the temperatures dropped to below 20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), the levels were up to 30 pCi/l in the basement, and 21 pci/l upstairs in the rest of the home. Suffice to say, I began another extensive research into possible mitigation techniques and there are several things one can do to lower radon levels.

The recommendations range from exhaust fans, central ventilation, sealing of cracks in basement floors and walls, to a more drastic mitigation technique called sub floor ventilation. Now, in a finished basement it is nearly impossible to seal any or all cracks, and so I did not even bother. I did purchase air tight drainage hole covers for our basement that still allow for water to flow down them but prevent any potential gas to come up through them into the living space. Honestly I am not sure if these had any effect, if so it was very insignificant. We also tried using ventilation fans to first blow air out (negative pressure) and then to blow air in (positive pressure). But this is very inefficient and in the winter not a very good idea. Besides, according to my radon detector, the levels were basically unchanged. After nearly year and a half of this radon testing and fooling around with trying to lower the levels, we decided to go for the sub floor mitigation. It took us couple of days to install (we did it ourselves) in late spring and let me tell you, we should have done this a long time ago. Before we began it was quite warm and the levels were down to about 8 pci/ml, which for our house was considered very good. After we installed the system I reset my radon detector and three days later the numbers came in at 0.5pci/l. to tell you the truth I was skeptical whether or not this was going to work at all, but when I saw the results I was ecstatic. We’ve had it running smoothly for over four months now and the levels hover anywhere between 0.5 and 0.7 pci/l. Ever since then we talked to several contractors and homebuilders in the area about the potential risks. Of course no one was aware of this. One of the builders has taken on to himself to test some of the homes he worked on. He has already installed 3 such sub floor mitigation systems … I suggest you check your home as well, and if you have a radon problem do fix it as soon as possible.

If you are not completely conviced about the dangers that radon poses, feel free to check out these videos from EPA amd the Surgeon General:

Video 1                                            Video 2

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radon mitigation