Monday, November 18, 2013

Reasons why you should test your home for radon

I have been wondering why radon isn’t on the radar of New Brunswickers. According to a Health Canada study released in 2012, New Brunswick homes have the highest radon levels in the country yet you don’t hear much about it.
But across the border in Maine, my brother routinely tests clients’ homes for radon because public awareness of the dangers of the gas in homes is high.
That 2012 Health Canada study found that almost 25% of the New Brunswick homes participating in the cross-Canada study had radon levels above the Health Canada guidelines of 200 Bq/m3. When the data was sifted by population the study concluded that 20% of New Brunswickers live in homes with radon concentrations above the Health Canada guidelines.

What’s the worry?

  • Exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
  • It’s estimated that 10% of lung cancer deaths in NB are associated with radon exposure.
  • If you’re a smoker and live in a home with radon concentrations are higher than the Health Canada guidelines the odds are not in your favour.
  • If you’re not a smoker but are exposed to a high level of radon your lifetime lung cancer risk is 1 in 20.

Exposure to dangerous levels of radon is preventable.

For a couple of years now the NB Lung Association has been trying to raise awareness and encourage New Brunswickers to test their homes. They offer a test kit for $35 (lab analysis included) that can be ordered online or by calling the Association office. Test kits are also available at hardware stores.

We had a test kit a couple of years ago but our dog ate the paperwork so we never sent it off for analysis. Then last month we used a couple of the kits from my brother to run a three-day test and found that the radon concentration in our basement is a hair above the Health Canada guideline.

Even though we don’t spend much time in our basement it was still a wake-up call for us. We’re now doing the three-month test recommended by the NB Lung Association to measure the levels in our main living space and will decide from there what needs to be done about it.  

We live in an old home but this radioactive gas is found in all homes, new or old. It seeps in from the ground, accumulating in the lower levels of a home so if you spend time in your basement it’s even more important that you have your home tested.

If you find that radon is a problem in your home there are local companies that can help you make the necessary changes to get you below the Health Canada levels. If you’re building a new home make sure your contractor is following the new Canadian building codes that were updated in 2010 to protect against radon.