Radon Ingress : How to Recognize it And What to do About It
Last modified: 2019/11/19 | Approximate reading time 3 mins
What is radon ingress? How do you know if your house is affected by this type of problem and if so, what can you do about it?
Due to the fact that it is a dense chemical element, radon has a tendency to accumulate in the lower levels of a building. Therefore, radon levels tend to be higher in basements and ground floors, as well as areas that are poorly ventilated.
Radon gas is colourless and odourless, therefore not recognizable by humans without the help of a machine.
Why is radon gas dangerous?
In small quantities and in areas with proper air circulation, this gas is not considered a health hazard, as it is diluted within the atmosphere. However, radon gas can become a major problem whenever it starts to accumulate in a confined space. It enters the house through dirt floors, through basement floor drains, through cracks in walls and/or floor slabs and, lastly, through joints that are not properly sealed on branch pipes and drainpipes.
Photo: The lung association
The effects of being exposed to radon
High-density exposure to radon gas is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer (10 to 16% in Quebec), right after cigarettes. In the past few years, radon has become a major concern for various government and health organizations that have decided to document the problem and the various risks relating to radon ingress.
Contrary to what one might think, radon does not cause other respiratory disorders including emphysema, allergies and bronchitis. However, long-term exposure greatly increases the chances of developing lung cancer, especially for people who are also smokers and who therefore multiply the risk factors.
That being said, the effects of radon on living beings are still being studied and more is learned every year about the impact of this volatile element.
Diagnosing a radon problem in your home
There is no consensus between experts regarding the maximum amount of radon that can be found inside a building before it turns into a problem. However, various distinct sources agree that the directive issued by Health Canada is the right one. The documentation prepared by this branch of the Canadian government states that if the radon level surpasses 200BQ/m³ inside the building, corrective measures will have to be applied within the next two years.
With a result of more than 600BQ/m³, these measures have to be applied in the coming year. According to pq.poumon.ca, one out of ten houses is faced with a radon problem that should be solved as soon as possible, in order to avoid lung illnesses that are caused by exposure to this gas.
How to use a dosimeter
Radon ingress can be tested by oneself, using a dosimeter. This tool can be bought for approximately 40$ and is used to test the BQ/m³ level. You can also contact a building inspector who will be able to do all the tests for you, so you can get a better idea of the situation.
Beware: avoid door-to-door salespeople who offer radon tests. More often than not, they are charlatans who will invent non-existent radon problems or who will not be able to apply the proper remedial actions.
Solutions to fix a radon ingress problem
Once you have gotten the negative results to the diagnosis, it’s important to contact a qualified contractor who will help you fix the problems that are causing this radon ingress problem. The proper method to avoid radon ingress is to start out by sealing all the cracks and openings at the floor level and/or touching the ground, as well as the joints between floors and walls.
In order to solve a radon ingress situation, another solution that often works is to install a system of depressurization wells under the cement slab, to create negative pressure, which will help evacuate the gas. This must be done by a certified contractor.
The problem could also be located in the basement or in the crawl-space under the house. Oftentimes, these spaces are poorly isolated and not well ventilated, which can cause radon gas accumulation. For more information, check out our article about crawlspace ventilation and insulation.
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