Radon (Rn) has an atomic number 86. On the periodic table, you can find it in Group 18 and Period 6 just to the right of astatine. Radon is listed under the Noble gases category along with neon, helium, xenon, argon, and krypton.
It is a radioactive gas released from normal decay of radium, thorium, and uranium in rock and soil. Radon is an invisible, tasteless, odourless gas that escapes through the ground and diffuses into the air. Depending on local geology, it can dissolve into ground water and it can be released into air when the water is used. In areas where ventilation is inadequate, such as in underground mines, radon can accumulate to a harmful level which greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.
Radon is present in the air all around the world, but the level depends on local geological conditions. Everyone breathes radon every day, but mostly at very low levels. Those who inhale radon at high levels have higher risk of developing lung cancer. In Canada, the tolerable level of radon in indoor air is 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). In 2014, a data published by CBS News showed higher levels of Radon in the following locations in Canada:
- Armstrong Station, Ont. (5,657 Bq/m3)
- Bas-Paquetville, N.B. (5,590 Bq/m3)
- Sparwood, B.C. (2941 Bq/m3)
- Gaspé, Que. (2,923 Bq/m3)
- Gooderham, Ont. (2,741 Bq/m3).
Because radon escapes through the ground, any crack in walls, floors, or foundation of homes can provide a tunnel for the gas to accumulate indoor. Building materials and even wells can contain water contaminated by radon. If a home is well insulated and tightly sealed, but it stands on soil rich in elements of radium, uranium, and thorium, radon levels can easily reach to a worrying level. Basement and first floors usually have the highest level because they are closest to the ground.
Radon decays quickly, leaving radioactive particles. When inhaled, those radioactive particles destroy cells that line the lung. The only type of cancer that can be associated with radon is lung cancer; the disease is a long term effect of the radioactive particles. There is no sufficient evidence to diagnose any short term effects.
Almost every home in Canada has radon, but the level varies. To test the level of radon, you can purchase a long term radon test kit or hire a certified professional to figure out the result within short term test. If the level reaches at least 200 Bq/m3, you will need radon mitigation professional to reduce it. One of the best method is called depressurization which basically channels radon from underground to outdoor air before the gas enters your home. It can reduce radon level by more than 90%. For best results, you should add more ventilations and seal possible radon entry points inside your home.
Simon Indoor Air Quality provides professional services to test radon levels in your home and continue to monitor and improve air quality by performing the best mitigation method and installing new ventilation. Visit http://www.simonairquality.com to learn more!