What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When released from the ground into the outdoor air, radon is diluted and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces such as homes, it can sometimes accumulate to high levels, which can put people’s health at risk.

What are the health risks of radon exposure? 

One in 20 people exposed to high levels of radon over a long period of time are at risk of developing lung cancer. For smokers, the risk is even greater: smokers exposed to high levels of radon have a 1 in 3 risk. 

Radon gas breaks down to form radioactive elements which, if inhaled, can become deeply lodged in the lungs. These elements emit radiation that penetrates lung tissues, damaging the lung cells. When cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.

How can radon get into my home? 

Radon can enter a home through openings where the house contacts the soils, such as cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.

Where can I get a radon test kit? 

Testing for radon in your home is easy and inexpensive. There are different types of devices that can be used to test for radon. Order your radon test kit here.

Alternatively, radon test devices are available at select Home Hardware and Walmart locations, as well as at all Home Depot stores throughout British Columbia. Prices and types vary.

How do I test my home for radon? 

When testing for radon, place the radon detector in the lowest lived-in level of your home that is used or occupied for more than 4 hours a day (e.g., basement with a rec room, the ground floor, etc.).

The preferred location for the device is by an interior wall at least 3 feet off the floor, at least 20 inches from the ceiling, and 8 inches from other objects.

How can I reduce radon levels in my home? 

The term used for removing radon in a home is ‘mitigation’. Regardless of your results, you can take the following steps to help reduce the level of radon:

  • Increase ventilation to allow an exchange of air.
  • Seal all cracks and openings in foundation walls and floors, and around pipes and drains.
  • Paint basement floors and foundation walls with two coats of paint and a sealant.
  • Ventilate the basement sub-flooring by installing a small pump to draw the radon from below the concrete slab to the outside before it can enter your home.
  • Renovate existing basement floors, particularly earth floors.

Ultimately, if your home tests high for radon, the best method for reducing levels will depend on how radon enters your home and the design of your home.

We recommend hiring a certified radon mitigation specialist. A fix usually costs between $500 and $3,000, but costs vary depending on the size and design of your home.   

What is the current Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air? 

Radon is measured in a unit called a Becquerel  (Bq/m3.) A Becquerel means one radioactive disintegration per second. 

The current Canadian guideline for radon in indoor air is 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (200 Bq/m3) - but if you can reduce it, do.

If you have between 200 and 600 Bq/m3, a fix is suggested within 2 years and if your results indicate more than 600 Bq/m3, a fix is suggested within 1 year.

What are the radon levels in BC? 

Since radon occurs naturally in soil, it is found across Canada but concentrations differ greatly. Radon levels are usually higher in areas where there is a larger amount of uranium in underlying rock and soil. Radon levels will vary from one building to another, even if they are similar and next to each other. 

According to available data, we know high radon areas include parts of the Okanagan, Fraser-Fort George, Peace River, Columbia-Shuswap, Kootenays, Thompson-Nicola and Gulf Islands.