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. The detector states that levels of 150 Bq/M3 can be cause for concern if observed over a month or more. That is also the national standard for concerning radon levels in the U.S.
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 2006. Fans for the venting pipe are not required in the code, leaving the homeowner to install them if they are concerned with radon levels.
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.”
After sharing his concerns with the Observer and on social media, King says his home’s builder has agreed to install a radon ventilation fan.