Did you know? – Some common questions and answers
Radon and your health
Q: What is radon?
A: Radon is a radioactive, naturally occurring gas, and is a leading cause of lung cancer.
Q: What radon levels (concentrations/activity) cause cancer?
A: The overall relative risk of lung cancer increases by 16% for every 100 Bq/m3. This is based on over 10,000 lung cancer patients and controls, who had their homes tested for radon using long term testing devices, across North America, Europe and China.
Q: How does radon testing work?
A: Testing for radon is simple and cheap. Our team of scientists and Health Canada recommend a radon test kit that is:
Q: What is an “unsafe” radon level?
A: Health Canada’s maximum tolerated exposure limit for radon is 200 Bq/m3, but increased lifetime cancer risks are evident at anything at or above 100 Bq/m3. The best advice is to have radon levels that follow the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable). We have a detailed page on how to interpret your radon levels here.
Q: What are radon gas symptoms?
A: Radon is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas and there are no immediate symptoms to radon gas exposure that a person will notice. Although there are no symptoms from radon exposure, the radiation released by radon (alpha particles) will immediately damage the DNA of the cells lining the lungs. This damage increases your lifetime relative risk of the only scientifically verified health effects of radon exposure: lung cancer. The only way to know you have radon in your home is to use a Health Canada recommended long term testing device.
Q: Does high radon increase my chances of getting lung cancer if I use or am exposed to tobacco products?
A: Yes. Combined tobacco use and high radon dramatically increases your lung cancer risks than either alone. Health Canada has some information on this here. If you are exposed to or use tobacco products, testing your home for radon (and mitigating if high) is one way of lowering your chance of getting lung cancer.
It is important to note that there are other verified causes of lung cancer that when combined radon exposure, will dramatically increase your lifetime relative risk of getting lung cancer. These are:
- Exposure to air pollution such as forest fire smoke and combustion particulates (called particulate matter less than 2.5 microns aka PM 2.5)
- Exposure to heavy metals such as Arsenic
- Exposure to Asbestos
- Previous history of severe lung inflammation (such as pneumonia and tuberculosis)
Radon and where you live
Q: Does Canada have radon?
A: Yes! Unfortunately, Canada has some of the highest radon levels globally and no place in Canada is free from radon. Learn more about radon in Canada here.
Q: Where are radon levels the highest?
A: ALL of Canada has the potential for high radon (there is no radon “free” area). The biggest influencing factor on high radon, is how your home is built and used. The only way to know for sure, is to test.
Radon and your home
Q: What is radon mitigation?
A: Radon mitigation is the process of preventing a home from pulling soil gases into the living space. This usually consists of an active fan pulling soil gases from under the foundation of a home and venting it outside. When properly installed, these systems are extremely effective at lowering radon in a home. We have detailed information on a blog and a dedicated page on our website.
Q: Isn’t radon only in the basement?
A: No, all homes have some method of air mixing and heating effects that mixes air nearly evenly across the home. Based on our peer-reviewed and published research, basements are only 13% higher than the main and upper floors. This means that if your basement is high in radon, so too is your main and upper floors.
Q: Isn’t radon just an old home problem?
A: Through our research, we see that ALL homes have the potential to be high in radon. But, our research shows that newer homes have an increased chance of having high radon. Whereas 1 in 9 homes built before 1940 are above Health Canada’s limit of 200 Bq/m3, a home built after 2001 has doubled this risk to 1 in 4.5 homes above 200 Bq/m3.
Q: I have a pipe in my basement that is labelled “radon”, does this mean I have a radon mitigation system?
A: Not necessarily. If your home was built after 2010 – 2015 (depending on your province/territory) there will be a “radon rough-in”. This is the beginning of a radon mitigation system but is non-functional. This requires a certified professional to install an active fan and complete the installation of a full mitigation system.
The Evict Radon National Study
Q: Why should I test my home for radon with the Evict Radon National Study?
A: There are a few reasons:
- We offer an at-cost kit and take no profits in any way whatsoever, from radon testing or mitigation.
- We use the only internationally certified (ISO 17025) radon tester, and constantly perform quality controls to ensure the radon reading you get is reliable.
- Your anonymous, de-identified radon test will be used in scientific research by Canadian scientists to solve Canada’s large and worsening radon problem to:
- Promote informed changes to building practices
- Promote policy changes to address those that are affected the most from radon exposure
- Inform all Canadians on radon and its health effects
The Evict Radon National Study is a Canadian public-sector, university-based cancer prevention study. Our team consists of researchers and other scientists based at universities and agencies from coast to coast, including: BC Cancer Agency (BC), Simon Fraser University (BC), University of Calgary (AB), University of Saskatchewan (SK), University of Ottawa (ON), Université Laval (QC), Dalhousie University (NS), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (ON), the National Research Council (of Canada), and Health Canada.