Jan King of Salmon Arm is concerned with the radon levels a detector he purchased is displaying in his Hillcrest home. (CKristiansen - Wikimedia Commons)

Radon levels in new Salmon Arm home a concern

Real-time monitoring shows radon concentration just within federally accepted guideline

Radon levels in a newly constructed Salmon Arm home have its owners concerned for their health and the health of their neighbours.

Jan King, who moved into the Hillcrest neighbourhood earlier this year, said he purchased an electronic detector which displays radon concentration in real-time.

What he has seen has worried him.

The federal standard set for safe radon levels is 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/M3) – a measure of radioactivity. King said the levels his device has shown were of concern according to its manufacturer, peaking at just shy of 200 Bq/M3. According to Health Canada, the most accurate way for people to find out if their homes have a radon problem is to measure radon levels in home for at least three months. Health Canada recommends either purchasing a do-it-yourself test kit which is then mailed away to a lab for analysis or hiring a professional to measure the levels. They suggest taking action to reduce radon levels in the home within two years if long-term monitoring suggests radon levels between 200 and 600 Bq/M3.

Information provided with the detector King purchased states that levels of 150 Bq/M3 can be cause for concern if observed for a month or more. That is also the national standard for concerning radon levels in the U.S.

Digital Radon monitors have not yet been evaluated for use by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency program.

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Radon gas is produced by the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements, such as radium and uranium which are present in varying concentrations in the ground across the province. Health Canada estimates that 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths, totalling more than 3,300 each year, are related to exposure to radon. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Although he purchased the monitoring device recently, King said the levels he has observed have already concerned him enough that he plans to contact a company offering radon mitigation services.

King’s house is fitted with a vent that runs down below the house’s foundation and out through the roof, designed to passively vent radon and other gasses from out below the foundation. The vent is not fitted with a fan.

The BC Building Code has required builders to include a venting pipe in buildings since 2014. Fans for the venting pipe are not required in the code, leaving the homeowner to install them if they are concerned with radon levels.

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According to a document circulated through the B.C. Lung Association’s Radon Aware program, the venting system is much more effective at reducing radon levels in the house when the fan is equipped.

King said he and his mother are hoping to make the house feel like home as soon as possible, noting radon levels picked up by the air-quality monitor rise when the furnace fan is circulating air.

“I look around there are tons of families here. There are little kids and elderly people, I just think you don’t want to take chances with your kids growing up with that sort of thing. They need good air to breathe.”

King says his home’s builder has agreed to install a radon ventilation fan.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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