Quality. integrity. Trust.

We turned the clocks back an hour last weekend — it’s also a good time to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors (since batteries need to be changed twice a year, doing it when the clocks change makes it easy to remember). If you haven’t done it yet, do it now.

But it’s also time to think about another silent killer in every home — radon.

November is Radon Action Month, aimed at boosting awareness of the gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. If you’re a smoker and have elevated radon levels in your home, over time your chances of developing lung cancer is one in three. It’s estimated that radon causes 3,200 lung cancer deaths a year in Canada.

What really gets me is that these deaths could be avoided.

First, what’s radon?

Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium, which is found in rocks, soil or water. When diffused into the outdoors, radon isn’t dangerous. It becomes a problem when it gets trapped and accumulates, like in a home.

Most homes nowadays are more tightly sealed — which is great for energy-efficiency, but not if you have a radon problem.

Because radon is a gas, it seeps into homes very easily, through small cracks in the floor slab, foundation, crawl spaces, the sump pump, and openings for venting and plumbing. It can even get in through the water supply.

How much radon is safe?

Every home has some radon in it, depending on geography. The question is how much? The only way to know is through testing.

Health Canada recommends that radon in indoor air should not exceed 200 becquerel per cubic metre (Bq/m3; becquerel is an international standard unit of radioactivity). I recently saw a house that had more than eight times that amount. Think that’s bad? I’ve heard of homes having over 2,300 Bq/m3. One home in Quebec had 20,653 Bq/m3, while the house next door had only 125 Bq/m3 — and it had a crawl space with a dirt floor.

There’s no telling if a home has a radon problem, and that’s why testing is so important.

To continue reading go to the National Post