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Energy-Efficient = Radon Risk?

More knowledge can make things easier – or more complicated. For instance, when it comes to home construction technology, innovations over the last decade or so have tended to produce homes that are more energy-efficient, which means more tightly sealed against the elements. But where does that leave us when it comes to radon?

In addition to new home technology, draft-proofing your old home has become a popular DIY project. A home that is more tightly sealed will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, leading to lower energy bills. But – it also means that radon, the invisible and deadly gas that rises up from the ground, will remain in your home and could lead to an increased risk of lung cancer.

That’s the finding in a study published recently in the BMJ (formerly called the British Medical Journal). It seems like a common sense conclusion. The study by researchers from the U.K. and Australia concluded that a national strategy to improve energy efficiency would increase radon concentrations by 56%.

Radon Gas
Radon gas is tasteless, odourless and colourless. It is produced during the natural decay process of uranium, which is present in the earth, rocks and also in water.

Radon gas seeps into your home from the bottom up, via cracks in the foundation and any openings such as water mains, joints and others. Health Canada calls it the second leading cause of lung cancer (after smoking) and it’s been blamed for about 16% of all lung cancer deaths.

Outdoors, it disperses harmlessly into the air, but indoors, it can collect to dangerous levels. The more tightly sealed the home, the more it will linger.

Super energy-efficient homes may also cause other indoor air quality issues, including increased levels of allergens like dust mites, moisture (leading to mildew and mold) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

What To Do?
Now, while the study’s researchers cautioned that the 56% increase still involves only a small amount overall (given the average current concentrations), it’s still a concern. The goal with radon is to keep levels as low as possible.

Measures that may help include:

  • Sealing the foundation
  • Improved ventilation
  • Installing a suction pipe to take the gas away from the home if levels remain persistently high

Knowledge is Your First Step
Experts agree that testing for radon gas levels should come first – before you do that energy-efficient retrofit. Then you’ll know if you have an existing problem. After the renovations, you should test again to see if the levels have increased and if other measures are in order.

At ESG, we offer:

  • Short term testing – less than 90 days if you’re in a hurry
  • Long term testing – recommended, since radon levels can vary according to the season.

Environmental issues can be solved – let us show you how. Let us give you peace of mind – call the Environmental Services Group for a quote. We’re your asbestos removal experts serving Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – at (416) 575-6111.

In The News and on TV:
ESG has been featured on CTV and Global news and we’re the official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan.

Environmental Services Group is a cutting edge environmental consulting firm based in Toronto and servicing both the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario. We provide state-of-the-art, industry-leading expertise in remedying environmental hazards such as mold, lead, asbestos and much more. Call 416-575-6111 or visit our website today for a pressure-free initial consultation. You’ll be glad you did!

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