Radon: Know before you buy

What is radon?

  • It’s an invisible, odourless, tasteless radioactive gas
  • It is created by the radioactive decay of Uranium and Radium
  • It seeps up from underground through fissures in the earth or via underground water sources
  • It enters the home through cracks and holes or via building materials containing radioactive rock
  • It is seen as the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking
  • It increases smoker’s likelihood of contracting Lung Cancer

The risks

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies radon as a known cause of cancer.  Health Canada estimates that about 16% of lung cancer deaths are related to being exposed to radon in the home. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and it’s estimated that in Canada there are more than 3,300 lung cancer deaths related to radon each year. If you smoke, you are at an even higher risk of developing lung cancer if you are exposed to radon.

Public Health Ontario, in addition to other agencies, agree that there are about 850 lung cancer deaths caused by radon in Ontario every year.  This is equivalent to over 2 people in Ontario dying each day from lung cancer caused by radon.

Apart from the fact that 83% of people that contract lung cancer die from it, the financial costs of lung cancer are huge.  They can be up to $100,000 per patient per year.

The outlook in Ontario is not great with respect to government-provided health-care either.   Read more here:  http://bit.ly/2CY0AtX

How it gets into the home

Radon seeps up from the soil and escapes at the surface to mix and dissipate with the air.  The average background levels of radon are around 40Bq/m3.   However because the pressure inside and below the home is often significantly lower than the pressure in the soil and even the open-air, there is a tendency for radon and other soil gases to enter the home at the point it touches the soil.

Here it can build-up to quite high-levels, levels that seriously increase the risks to people that live there.

One easy solution

Reducing the level of radon in the home is one of the best ways to alleviate the risk.   The risk of contracting lung cancer from exposure to radon goes up with the level of radon and time exposed to it.   Conversely, lowering the radon level reduces the risk.  But knowing of the levels can only be determined by testing.

In Canada, long-term testing is recommended.  But a test of 3-months or more does not help identify if the home you want to buy may have a problem that needs fixing.

The Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors (OntarioACHI) have a training program that teaches members to perform short-term radon measurements on a home.  These measurements can be carried out in as little as 48 hours.

A 3-month or longer test is ideal for identifying the average long-term exposure to radon levels but is useless as part of a real-estate transaction.  An OntarioACHI Certified Radon Measurement Inspector (OCRMI) can perform a short-term test that identifies the potential in a home for radon infiltration.  This allows vendors and purchasers alike to come to an agreement prior to the purchase closing on how the problem is to be dealt with.

As an OntarioACHI Certified Radon Measurement Inspector is prevented by our code of ethics from performing mitigation, you can be sure that the measurements performed are not to generate further income.  The measure and report recommendations.    Any home that is recommended to require mitigation should be fixed by a C-NRPP mitigation professional.

A short-term professional OCRMI measurement should cost around $200 (+taxes) for a passive device test and around $350 (+ taxes) for an electronic test.   The reason for the disparity is in the cost of the test equipment used and the speed at which the results can be provided.

Passive testing, which includes having to send the devices to a laboratory can take up to 10 days for the results.   Electronic measurements can produce results within 12 hours and printed report within 48.  Well within scope for providing buyers what they need to know BEFORE completing an offer on a home.

Contact OntarioACHI via email at radon@ontarioachi.ca for your nearest OntarioACHI Certified Radon Measurement Inspector and look for the OCRMI designation and OCRMI logo on your Inspectors marketing material

Instead of having to wait nearly 4 months for a measurement on your home, contact an OCRM Inspector now and #KnowInTen days or less.

ensure you ask your Realtor to have a radon measurement performed on your next home purchase as part of the Home Inspection.  You will know of the risks and have solid evidence to ensure there is a plan in place to fix the home to your satisfaction before you close the deal.

Long-term testing is recommended so that a radioactivity dosage can be calculated.  The OCRMI short-term test is designed to identify a material defect in a property.   If found this becomes a material fact which a professional Realtor is bound to disclose.

If you are told that only a long-term test is viable, let us inform you, Health-Canada already recognise the viability of short-term testing to identify if a mitigation is successful. 

In their publications, they state “a rapid indication of radon concentration may be required; for instance, as a confirmation that an implemented mitigation strategy was successful or for pre-mitigation diagnostic testing. Under such circumstances, a short-term measurement (typically 2 to 7 days) may be appropriate”   We can think of no better time for a short-term test that indicates mitigation might be required that a real-estate transaction.

Our OCRMI members are trained to use those same techniques to show no mitigation has taken place and a problem with radon infiltration, where it exists, can be indicated.