Breathe in bet­ter air, not dan­ger­ous radon

Windsor Star - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

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 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

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