Feds look into Canada’s killer homes

Every year, 2,000 die from radon exposure. Is it in your home?


Feds look into Canada’s killer homes

Your life savings are vanishing, your job is in jeopardy, and the repo man has already visited some of your friends and relatives. Now here’s the really bad news: your beloved home—the one you’re desperately trying to save from foreclosure—may actually be killing you (and not because of the mortgage payments).

The culprit? Radon: a tasteless, odourless, invisible gas that lurks in cellars and crawl spaces and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, next to smoking. Every year, up to 2,000 Canadians die a premature death because their homes—unbeknownst to them —are loaded with tiny radioactive particles.

This nasty little gas is hardly new (scientists have been studying its fatal side-effects for more than a century), but the federal government is suddenly anxious to find out which neighbourhoods are most at risk. Over the next two years, Health Canada plans to spend almost $1 million testing 18,000 randomly chosen homes, with the end result being an online “radon potential map” that pinpoints possible danger zones. “Radon is the largest source of radiation exposure for most Canadians,” says Jack Cornett, a ministry spokesman. “But we are concerned that there is a real lack of awareness about it.”

Here’s what Health Canada wants you to know: first, don’t panic. Radon is a naturally occurring gas released by uranium decay in the soil, and the experts believe that only 2.5 per cent of all homes contain “unsafe” levels (more than 200 becquerels per cubic metre). Second, if you’re still nervous, conduct your own test. Do-it-yourself radon kits cost as little as $50 at the local hardware store. Third, seal all the cracks in your basement floor. Radon loves to seep through those crevices.

Oh, and don’t smoke cigarettes. Apparently that causes lung cancer, too.

Filed under:

Feds look into Canada’s killer homes

  1. The numbers don’t seem to add up.

    200 Bq/m3 is a low value, but to choose it as a cutoff it is completely arbitrary, since the mutagenic effect of radiation is proportional to the dosage over just about any range. Still, at that level, the risk should be very low.

    Then, only 2.5% of homes exceed even that low threshold. These homes should contain some 800,000 people. So it should be among these people that most of the cancers occur. 2000 deaths a year, in this group? One in 400 of those dies each year? 20 out of them, or one in 20 in a time of 20 years? Keep right on smoking if you live in a home with Radon, you can’t fare much the worse for it.

    How many people suffer professional exposure ? Mine shafts should contain a lot more Radon than basements.

  2. It should be tested in ALL Houses .. Old and new …. randome testing is BS,

    even this article has a very cavallier tone citing. ” unawareness ” . not Good enough.

  3. Yes Radon gas is assumed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer and is of real concern. The levels can vary drastically from home to home. I have seen levels multiple times the recommended remediation levels, in one house, and the next house 10 ft away is fine. This is no reason to be complacent but the simple facts. I live and work in Ottawa and have found the Morgan’s Grant area and Chelsea to be the biggest “hot spots”. That doesn’t mean all homes there are bad, but TEST TEST TEST. for piece of mind and your health. I will not test, just help fix the problem, call a home inspector, health canada, or buy a pro 3 tester online from radondetect.ca Life is too short.

  4. Seal the basement floor cracks? I thought the big meanie was the basement floor drains, but maybe I am misremembering.

  5. Sealing cracks and reducing the amount of negative air pressure in your house (ie proper combustion air for furnace and HWT ) are inexpensive things you can do yourself. However if you are going to pay a contractor $250 to $1250 to do this work, Your level of Radon gas had better be low or you are more than likely wasting your money. The tried and true remedy is a sub slab deppressurization system. Simply put, a high suction fan that sucks the gas from under your basement floor and ejects it outside. Beware this is Canada and the US ways will not work below -17deg C for an extended time. Depending on your home this can run from $1900.00 to $3000.00 or if you have a earth crawl space, it can run as high as $12,000.00. Alaska is the best source of information for our kind of Radon issues.

  6. Thanks, Rob. Do you have a particular recommendation for a commercially available do-it-yourself radon tester?

  7. Health Canada uses Eperms, that they can test themselves $$$$$ but they have started using what I use, for quick visual accurate readings. The Pro Series 3 unit. This can be puchased at most “Radon” websites. But I prefer to keep it Canadian and not have to deal either customs and shipping charges. I buy from tibor@radondetect.ca They are good people. If you need anything else I am at radonremediator@gmail.com
    Cheers Rob

    • I appreciate this advice, and I will do some more digging for info. Thanks!

  8. We offer radon mitigation services in Ottawa and Gatineau. We have numerous successful installations, reducing levels from as much as 40pC/L to below 2pC/L. Check our website at http://www.radonreduction.ca. Sub-slab depressurization is our speciality. Takes just a few hours to install in most homes.

  9. Wow, thankyou for the info….another issue that many homeowners and buyers including myself would not have know!

Sign in to comment.