Breathe in bet­ter air, not dan­ger­ous radon

Test­ing for this odour­less yet harm­ful gas one way of pro­tect­ing your fam­ily’s health

Montreal Gazette - - HOME FRONT - MIKE HOLMES Mike Holmes and his son Mike Jr. are back! Watch Holmes And Holmes on HGTV Canada. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit

November is Lung Month. In a day, we take 22,000 breaths — and most of those will prob­a­bly be taken in­doors.

But the air we breathe in our homes can be up to five times more pol­luted than the air out­doors. We’re ex­posed to pol­lu­tion, tox­ins, volatile or­ganic com­pounds ( VOCs) and harm­ful gases all the time. While they’re of­ten harm­lessly di­luted into our at­mos­phere, some­times they find a way into our homes — and that’s where we have to worry.

As we con­tinue to build stronger, more tightly sealed homes, it be­comes harder for those pol­lu­tants to es­cape and they could ac­cu­mu­late to harm­ful lev­els.

This is es­pe­cially true when it comes to radon. And since November is also Take Ac­tion on Radon month, it feels like the right time to re­mind ev­ery­one about the po­ten­tial health haz­ards of this dan­ger­ous gas.


Radon is a colour­less, odour­less gas. You can’t see, smell or taste it. The thing is, every home will have some lev­els of radon. But with­out test­ing for it, you won’t know whether or not they’re at a high enough level that you’ll need to take ac­tion.

Where does radon come from? It’s caused by the break­down of ura­nium in our soil. That gas then seeps into our homes, whether it’s through our con­crete slab, cracks in our foun­da­tion or even our well wa­ter.

When radon is in the out­side air, it di­lutes harm­lessly, but when it gets into our homes, it can ac­cu­mu­late to dan­ger­ous lev­els. Did you know that radon is the lead­ing cause of lung can­cer for non-smok­ing Cana­di­ans?

While all homes will have some level of radon, the den­sity of radon in your home and your neigh­bours’ homes may dif­fer wildly. The only way to know for sure is to test. If you’re just learn­ing about radon for the first time, there’s some good news. You typ­i­cally want to test your home in the win­ter be­cause it’s when we keep our homes more tightly sealed, so you can get a more ac­cu­rate read­ing of the radon level in your home. Test­ing doesn’t cost much money; to me, it’s com­pletely worth it.


We know that radon is harm­ful, but what can we do about it? Some ar­eas of the coun­try are more prone to high lev­els of radon than oth­ers. I’ve been work­ing with builders through­out Canada who are in­cor­po­rat­ing radon mit­i­ga­tion right into their builds. Here’s what some of the best builders are do­ing to pre­vent radon en­try and build a stronger home with bet­ter air quality.

New builds can have radon-mit­i­ga­tion sys­tems built right in to help the gas harm­lessly vent into the out­door air and not seep in through your foun­da­tion. It’s all about us­ing the proper build­ing ma­te­ri­als. Lay­ing down de­pres­sur­iz­ing pan­els un­der­neath the con­crete slab al­lows gas from the soil to move to­ward a vent pipe that con­nects to your radon-mit­i­ga­tion sys­tem.

Over top of the pan­els, you lay your gas bar­rier mem­brane, which acts as an air bar­rier. Lay­ing the pan­els and mem­brane is a pretty quick process that only takes two peo­ple about four hours to in­stall. Af­ter­ward, you pour the con­crete slab over top.

In On­tario, for in­stance, all new builds re­quire the in­stal­la­tion of a heat re­cov­ery ven­ti­la­tor (HRV). Here’s where you get your fi­nal guard against radon in case the de­pres­sur­ized panel and mem­brane are com­pro­mised: by in­stalling a sim­ple de­vice to your HRV, it can de­tect a dan­ger­ous spike in the lev­els of radon in your home. It then trig­gers an air change, cy­cling in clean, treated air and ex­haust­ing the radon-in­fused air harm­lessly out of your ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem. Once the con­cen­tra­tion of radon is low­ered, the HRV goes back to its nor­mal func­tion.

If your home al­ready has an HRV, I would rec­om­mend hav­ing one of these mit­i­ga­tion de­vices in­stalled. When it comes to your in­door air quality, one of the smartest things you can do is to test for radon. Test­ing and mit­i­ga­tion op­tions don’t have to break the bank and it could save your life. So why wait?


De­vices that test for radon can fit in the palm of your hand, but these small tools can have a big ef­fect on the safety of your home and don’t have to break the bank.

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