What is Radon?
Radon is an inert radioactive gas that results from the radioactive decay of radium, which itself results from the decay of uranium. Radon is odourless, colourless, and occurs naturally underground. When radon gets released from the soil to the outside air, it gets diluted to very low concentrations and is not a health concern. When radon is released from the soil into your home, it can build up to high concentrations and is a health concern.
How does radon get into my home?
Radon gets into your home because:
- You have radium decaying into radon under or near your home
- You have various cracks and other openings in your home’s foundation floor or walls for the radon to get in
- Your home has a “stack effect” that actively sucks air into your home from beneath the foundation
- This stack effect happens because the air in your home is warmer than the air in the soil under your house
- As warm air in your home rises and leaves the house, cold air from below your foundation gets sucked up to replace it
- This air that gets sucked into your home can have high radon concentrations
All homes in Canada have some concentration of radon in them, it is just a question of how much.
What are the health effects of radon?
Long term exposure to high levels of radon can cause lung cancer:
- Radon decays into radon decay products such as polonium-218 and polonium-214, which are ionic radioactive isotopes
- These radon decay products can be inhaled, and stick to the inside of the lungs
- Inside the lungs they emit harmful alpha radiation directly into sensitive lung tissue
- The radiation destroys lung tissue cells, and sometimes causes cellular mutations
- Over time, the cellular mutations can result in lung cancer
Radon induced lung cancer is among the most deadly cancers for Canadians:
The survival rate for lung cancer is much lower than other cancers:
To reduce your risk of radon induced lung cancer, test your home’s radon concentration to ensure it is low, or take action to mitigate it if it is high.