Raising awareness about the dangers of radon

What is radon, and how much do people actually know about it?

First of all, November is National Radon Awareness Month — and being aware of it could help save your life.

Radon gas is a colorless, odorless and invisible radioactive gas that is present in just about every home — and it's the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, after smoking.

It's an under-reported, and under-estimated danger — largely because few people actually know where it comes from, and the risks it actually carries.

Radon gas is produced in some soils, where many homes wind up getting built. If the gas is present in the soil, it can come up through the basement and crawl spaces of the homes that are built. In large enough concentrations, radon can pose a health risk.

Last winter, Jon Eakes, from CJAD 800's Home Improvement Show, conducted an experiment using several CJAD 800 personalities to test how much radon they have in their homes, and whether any of them had radon levels that exceeded the action levels set by the government of Canada — 200 becquerels per cubic metre, though Jon Eakes suggests some have advocated lowering that benchmark to 100 Bq/m3.

About 7 per cent of Canadian homes contain concentrations that exceed those levels. None of the radio personalities did — though many of them were made aware of how dangerous radon can be, and how prevalent it is.

There's no way to test for radon until a home is built. But there are ways to test for it — and the best time to do that, Eakes says, is during the winter months.

The cost of the test is minimal — around $30 or $40 at a hardware store — and involves setting a small device in your home, leaving it there for a three-month period, and then returning it for analysis.

Visit Jon Eakes' web site for more information on radon, an information video, and to listen to the experiment with CJAD 800's personalities.