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What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas. It has no smell, no colour and no odour. It is naturally occurring in many northern soils and can build up in your home.

What are the health effects of radon?

Exposure to radon increases your chance of getting lung cancer. Scientists have determined that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, and the primary cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon causes approximately 10% of all lung cancers worldwide and kills approximately 2000 people in Canada each year.

How does radon get into my home?

Radon usually comes from the soil and can enter your home through any opening that exists between the building and the ground. Floor drains, sumps, foundation cracks and joints can all act as pathways. In colder northern climates, the migration of radon into your home is often sped up during winter months when heating systems create negative air pressures inside buildings.

What are my risks?

For a non-smoker, the risk of developing lung cancer when consistently exposed to high levels of radon ranges from 2% to 5%, depending on the radon concentrations. The higher the radon concentrations and the longer you are exposed, the higher the risk.

The risk is much greater for smokers. A smoker’s lifetime risk of developing lung cancer when exposed to high levels of radon can range from 17% to 30%.

Is radon a concern for me?

High radon concentrations (> 200 Bq/m3) have been detected across the North including Quesnel, Prince George, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson and Atlin. Coastal regions, such as Terrace, Prince Rupert and Stewart are expected to represent less of a concern.

The only way to know for sure whether your home is high in radon is to test it. Testing is easy and relatively inexpensive. Test kits usually cost less than $60.

How do I test my home?

Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for a minimum of three months (preferably 12 months), ideally between October and April. The detectors should be set up in the lowest lived-in level of your home where you spend at least 4 hours of your time each day. Instructions for testing my home.

Where can I buy a test kit?

Long-term radon test kits can be purchased for $25 at the following Northern Health Public Health Protection office locations:

Prince George 4th Floor, 1600 3rd Avenue 250-565-2150
Vanderhoof 3299 Hospital Road 250-567-6900
Quesnel 523 Front Street 250-983-6810
Fort St. John 10115-110th Avenue 250-263-6000
Dawson Creek 1001-110th Avenue 250-719-6500
Smithers 3793 Alfred Avenue 250-847-6400
Terrace 3412 Kalum Drive 250-631-4200
Burns Lake 741 Centre Street 250-692-2400
Prince Rupert 300 Third Avenue West 250-622-6380

Several BC retailers and hardware stores also sell test kits throughout the province. For more information on radon testing and retail locations, please contact us at 250-565-2150 or radon@northernhealth.ca

When should I take action?

The current Canadian Guideline for Radon is 200 Bq/m3. Health Canada recommends that your home be mitigated if you detect radon concentrations greater than 200 Bq/m3. The higher the radon concentration, the sooner the remedial measures should be conducted.

What actions should I take?

If radon concentrations in your home are above 200 Bq/m3, there are a number of steps that you can take to reduce these levels:

  • Increase the mechanical ventilation via a heat recovery ventilator to allow an exchange of air.
  • Seal any entry points into the home (i.e. seal cracks and opening in foundation walls and floors and around pipes and drains).
  • Paint basement floors and foundation walls with two coats of paint or a sealant.
  • Ventilate the basement sub-flooring by installing a small pump to draw the radon from below the concrete slab to the outside.
  • Renovate existing basement floors, particularly earth floors.

Active Soil Depressurization, a method generally conducted by a contractor, is the most common and effective method of reducing radon in a home.


More Information

Your NH Healthy Community Environments Lead can provide info on radon, testing and mitigation, as well as radon test kits.

Northern Health Public Health Protection
Ph: 250-565-2150
Toll free: 1-800-663-7867


Watch Now: Radon in the North


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