Radon Mitigation in Okanagan Interior

If you own a home or are considering purchasing in the Okanagan, it’s important to be aware of the risk of radon exposure. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water. It takes the easiest route into your home, through cracks in the foundation, basement walls, and gaps around pipes. This gas can then accumulate in enclosed spaces, and here’s why this can become an issue: radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the number one environmental cancer-causing agent.

According to the radon potential map for British Columbia, the relative radon hazard for most of the Central Okanagan area is considered Zone 1-High. This means that most of the Central Okanagan area is at a higher risk of radon exposure compared to other areas in the province. With more than 3,000 Canadians perishing from radon-induced lung cancer each year, this is why looking into mitigation systems should be a consideration. 

In fact, Niel Bell of Radon Gas Removal in Kelowna has recently disclosed that the highest levels of radon testing done in 2022, across all of Canada, identified Lake Country as being 20% above the acceptable average 200 Bq/m3 emission levels indicated by Health Canada. Approximately 17 percent of Okanagan homes test above provincial guidelines for radon. While there’s uranium in the soil all across Canada, due to geological factors, there just happens to be more of it in the Okanagan. 

How’s it measured? In a unit called Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). If you’re standing outside then you won’t be exposed to dangerous levels as radon released from the ground gets diluted in the outdoor air to about 5 to 15 Bq/m3 and has little impact on your lung health. However, it can become a problem when it accumulates indoors. 

You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, so how can you be sure if your home has a problem? 

This can be done using a do-it-yourself radon test kit or by hiring a professional certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program. Long-term testing is the most accurate way to find out if your home has a problem and should be done over a period of at least 90 days. The Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists have compiled a list of do-it-yourself radon test suppliers, you can visit them online for more helpful information. Locally, Radon Gas Removal charges $99 + GST to leave a chemical-reacting puck in your home to grab the gas over a three-month period. Depending on the results, you will then consult with this company on improving or adding a mitigation system. 

This test uses a small device that measures the radioactive particles emitted by radon. In general, levels are highest in the lowest levels of a building. It’s recommended that you place the device in the lowest level of your home where you spend a few hours each day. Leave it for three months over winter, when the house is likely to be more sealed. Open doors and windows all provide an escape route for radon, compromising the accuracy of the test.

There's the option to buy a less expensive digital test at your local hardware store, like Canadian Tire, Rona or The Home Depot. You can also purchase a long-term thermostat digital radon reader called AirThings Smart  Radon Monitor for approximately $200 online, at Best Buy or Canadian Tire in Kelowna or West Kelowna. Radon Gas Removal here in Kelowna has advised that while the digital tests are decent, the chemical-reacting pucks provide more reliable results.   

If you discover that your home has high levels of radon, there are ways to reduce your exposure. Increasing airflow is an affordable, temporary solution. Open the windows and doors of your home to get fresh air circulating, and until you can hire a professional, limit time spent in the lower levels of your home. 

Professional contractors can install radon mitigation systems which typically involve a fan and a pipe system that draws the gas out of your home and vents it outside. Radon Gas Removal says how systems added to homes built before the year 2014 are on average $3000. If this is not feasible for your family, a contractor may suggest keeping your drain taps filled with water, re-sealing basement floors and cracks in the foundation of your home, openings around pipes/drains, and adjusting your HVAC and/or HRV Systems to pressurize the indoor environment can help too. The best and most permanent method would involve installing an active soil depressurization system. This system would provide an alternate path for the radon to travel into a pipe and outside, rather than into your home. 

In 2014, the BC building code required all builders to install these pipes on new homes. This mitigation addition to your Okanagan home will help; however, please note that the current 2023 Building code does not require that builders include a radon fan installed in the radon pope. Radon Gas Removal in Kelowna says the material + labour to add a fan to your radon pipes ranges from $900-$1500. In doing the last step, radon better exits the home. 

Remember, being exposed to radon does not produce any immediate symptoms, but long-term exposure to radon - at any level but especially at high levels - can cause lung cancer. Testing for radon in your home is the first step towards ensuring that you and your family are safe from its harmful effects. Testing your Okanagan home is an inexpensive process that can provide peace of mind and help you identify any issues before they become a bigger problem.

Posted by Gillian Krol Personal Real Estate Corporation on
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