New research says many Calgary homes have high levels of radon gas
A new report, published by the University of Calgary, says that many homes in the city and surrounding areas have dangerously high levels of the deadly gas known as radon.
Radon is colourless, odourless and seeps in through the foundation of homes. It is created during the radioactive decay of radium-, thorium- and uranium-bearing soils and bedrock throughout the Prairies.
The gas is drawn through the foundation of homes as they are heated and mixes with the indoor air.
"Hot air rises and the taller the home, the more powerful that effect, like a taller chimney sucks more powerfully on the ground, so a taller home sucks more powerfully on the ground." says Aaron Goodarzi, an assistant professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the U of C.
According to Health Canada, inhaling radon can damage your lungs and can lead to the development of cancer.
Researchers at the U of C say they’ve found, through years of work and number crunching, unacceptably high levels of the gas in practically every area in the City of Calgary and surrounding communities.
“This work demonstrates that radon is a genuine and growing public health concern in southern Alberta,” says Goodarzi. "Radon is a known carcinogen. The good news is that the risk is easily remediated, and we’ve been able to prove that through the course of the study."
The worst case they found was one home that was 17 times higher than the safe level set out by Health Canada.
From this, they are advising that everyone buy a radon test kit to check the levels in their home to protect themselves and their family.
“Radon causes up to 16 percent of all cases of lung cancer and it’s a difficult disease to treat and diagnose and it has a big burden on society. The fact that many people don’t know about this is worrying,” said Fintan Stanley, one of the researchers at the U of C.
Stanley says that all residents of southern Alberta should consider testing their homes for the presence of the gas.
Data for the report was collected between 2013 and 2016 and involved over 2,300 people installing detectors in their homes for approximately three months.
The study found that nowhere was free of dangerous levels of the gas.
To reduce the amount of radon in your home, the most effective and most common way is a method known as Active Soil Depressurization (ASD).
ASD involves drilling a hole into the floor of your basement and installing a pipe and fan to take radon gas out from under your home and vent it outside.
On average, 16 percent of lung cancer deaths are attributable to radon exposure in Canada and it is the second leading cause of the disease, after smoking.
(With files from Kevin Green)