The village of Nakusp has been enlisted to help promote November as Radon Aware month, in partnership with the B.C. Lung Association.
Radon is a radioactive gas, which forms naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is colourless, odourless, and tasteless, which means it cannot be detected by the senses.
When radon is released from the ground, it mixes with fresh air, causing it to become diluted, which results in concentrations too low to be of concern.
It does become an issue when it gets into a closed space, like a home, and gets trapped, and people wind up breathing it in. High levels of radon exposure over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer.
“There isn’t much of a protective lining in your lungs, they’re very sensitive. The radon decay can damage the DNA within your cell’s nucleus,” said Britt Swoveland of the B.C. Lung Association. “We know that the risk for those exposed at high levels over time is about one in twenty. If you smoke, your risk is about one in three.”
The B.C. Lung Association is trying to promote the use of radon awareness kits, which are available for purchase through RadonAware.ca
The kit looks like a hockey puck, and is about the size of the palm of your hand. It sits in the lowest level of your home for a minimum of three months. Radon passively decays over the device.
Once the minimum three months are up, it can be packaged up and sent to a lab for analysis. It normally takes a couple of weeks to get the results, which are based on the Health Canada guidelines.
“You’ll either have a level that is above the Health Canada guideline, or below,” said Swoveland. “If you’re above, the action you should take is to reduce the radon levels in your home.”
There is a shelf life for the kits. If you buy one, make sure to use it within a year of purchase.
“I always think it’s good to use them as soon as possible, because if they get little tears or abrasions in the plastic that they’re sealed in, that could affect their levels.” said Swoveland.
In order to reduce levels of radon in the home, you can install a sub-slab depressurization system, which is basically a ventilation system for the radon gas. It extends from the sub slab in your home, and ventilates safely to the outdoors.
It takes about a day to a day and a half to install a system in your home, and it is recommended you find a certified radon professional to do the work.
In an existing home, installing a complete system can cost somewhere between $1,500-$3,000. If you’re building a new home, it’s a little less, around $1,000.