Breathe in better air, not dangerous radon
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.
WHAT IS RADON?
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.
BUILDING BETTER TO STOP RADON
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 radonmitigation 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? Mike Holmes and his son Mike
Jr. are back! Watch Holmes And Holmes on HGTV Canada. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.