Q. What is radon?
A. Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. As a gas, radon is slowly released from the ground, water, and some building materials that contain very small amounts of uranium, such as concrete, bricks, tiles and gyproc. Radon gas breaks down further to form additional radioactive particles called radon daughters, or "progeny" that can be breathed into the lungs.
Radon cannot be detected by the senses, i.e., it is colourless, odourless and tasteless; however, it can be detected with special instruments. When radon is released from the ground outside it mixes with fresh air and gets diluted resulting in concentrations too low to be of concern. However, when radon enters an enclosed space, such as a house or basement, it can accumulate to high concentrations and become a health risk.
Radon concentrations fluctuate seasonally, but are usually higher in winter than in summer, and are usually higher at night than during the day. This is because the sealing of buildings (to conserve energy) and the closing of doors and windows (at bedtime), reduce the intake of outdoor air and allow the build-up of radon.
Q. What is a becquerel?
A. The becquerel is the unit scientists use to measure the number of radioactive decays of radon atoms. One becquerel corresponds to one disintegration per second. Higher numbers of becquerels means higher levels of radon gas in the air.
Q. What is the difference between becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m³) and picocuries per litre (pCi/L)?
A. The concentration of radon in the air is measured in units of becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m³) or picocuries per litre (pCi/L). Both these units are measurements of radioactive concentration. The international community uses the becquerel per cubic meter of air (Bq/m³), while the USA uses the picocurie per litre to measure radon. One pCi/L is equivalent to 37 Bq/m³.
Q. I am a smoker. Does radon affect me more than a non-smoker?
A. Yes. The risk from radon exposure for a smoker (including those exposed to second hand smoke) is much greater than for a non-smoker. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker but are not exposed to radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is one in ten. If you add exposure to a high level of radon, your risk becomes one in three. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, your lifetime lung cancer risk at the same high radon level is only one in twenty.
Q. Are children more at risk from radon than adults?
A. Children have been reported to be at greater risk than adults for certain types of radiation exposure, but there is currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon.
Q. What about drinking water that contains radon?
A. Research has shown that drinking water that contains radon is far less harmful than breathing radon. When the ground produces radon, it can dissolve and accumulate in water from underground sources, such as wells. When water that contains radon is agitated when used for daily household requirements radon gas escapes from the water and goes into the air. The health risk is not from ingestion but from radon inhalation.
Q. Where in Canada are radon levels the highest?
A. Radon concentrations differ greatly throughout Canada but are usually higher in areas where there is a high concentration of uranium in underlying rock and soil. Radon is found in almost every house, but concentration levels will vary from one house to another, even if they are similar and next door to each other.
Q. How can radon get into my house?
A. A house can act like a vacuum for underground gases. The air pressure inside your house is usually lower than in the soil surrounding the foundation. This difference in pressure is caused by things like the use of air exchangers, exhaust fans and clothes dryers. When air is pushed out of the house, outside air is pulled back in to replace it - much of the replacement air comes from the ground surrounding the house and brings gases such as radon with it.
Radon can enter a house any place it finds an opening where the house contacts the soil: cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes and support posts, floor drains and sumps, cavities inside walls, and the water supply.
The only way to find out if your house has a radon problem is to measure the radon concentration inside it.
Q. Does a radon system require major reconstruction?
A. Major renovation is not usually required. In very rare situations, due to existing build outs and finishing, some minor renovations may be required, but most often not.
Q. How big is a radon reduction system?
A. A radon reduction system consists of components designed to prevent the entry of radon into a structure. Components include PVC piping, specially designed radon exhaust fans, and associated materials required to properly block radon entry, route radon exhaust and measure system performance. These components are not pre-configured, rather these components are incorporated into a custom designed reduction system for each home. No two homes are identical nor will they have the same "system", but all will utilize similar system components and should comply with the requirements set forth by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program.
Q. I may sell my home, will a radon system scare away buyers?
A. No; This is a common misconception. In fact, having a radon reduction system adds value to your home. Should questions arise from a prospective buyer, you and/or your realtor can contact us and effectively communicate the benefits of having the radon reduction system to prospective buyers. Ultimately the system should offer buyers peace of mind knowing radon concerns have been fully addressed.
Q. What type of warranty is offered on the system you install?
A. Professional Radon Systems includes a 5 year manufacturer warranty on radon fans, and five years warranty on the installation. We also guarantee results to ensure you are satisfied.