January has arrived! At this time of year, many of us are motivated to make positive changes for our families, improve our health and get off to a fresh start. In my home, there has been more activity in the kitchen, where we’ve been blending up some serious smoothies! Kale never tasted so good—okay maybe not that good! But today, I want to talk to parents about a health concern that may be silently affecting your family’s health and hiding in your home—in the very air you breathe.
What is radon?
If you haven’t heard about radon before, you’re not alone. Most Canadians are not aware of the dangers posed by this naturally occurring radioactive gas. Radon is produced when the uranium found in soil and rocks breaks down. When radon is released into the air outside, it quickly becomes diluted. However, in an enclosed indoor space (such as a house), toxic concentrations of radon can build up. This is where the trouble can begin.You may be thinking, “Not in my home! We have a new basement and have never noticed a smell.”
Unfortunately, this gas is sneaky. Radon is odourless, tasteless and invisible (similar to carbon monoxide). In fact, some radon is found in every home, but the concentrations can differ significantly from home to home, even between neighbours. It’s estimated that 7% of homes in Canada have a radon level above the safe level of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (200 Bq/m3).
How does radon get into my home?
Radon can enter your home from any place the house touches the soil, such as:
- cracks in the foundation walls
- dirt floors
- construction joints
- window casements
- floor drains
Why is radon dangerous?
When radon gas breaks down, radioactive particles can be inhaled into the lungs and damage lung cells. Exposure to high levels of radon over a period of time can result in an increased risk of lung cancer. If you are a smoker, radon is one more reason to quit! Radon + tobacco use = an increased risk of lung cancer.
Watch this short video on the dangers posed by radon:
According to Heath Canada, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for people who have never smoked.
What can I do to reduce the risk of radon in my home?
If you’ve read this blog post, you are off to a great start! At least you’re now aware of the danger posed by radon. To find out about your home’s radon levels you can purchase a radon test device from many hardware stores or hire a certified radon measurement professional. Both options will require you to test radon levels for at least three months, as levels can fluctuate. The winter months are an ideal time for testing the radon levels in your home. Don’t panic if the radon levels are high in your home—there are steps you can take to fix the problem, such as sealing all cracks and openings in your foundation walls, floor and around pipes and drains.
Let’s work together to keep your family healthy, especially at home. Add indoor air quality testing to your healthy living goals. Take action against radon! Share this blog with a friend or family member—it may save a life!
Were you aware of the effects of high levels of radon? We would love to hear from you!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.