There is growing concern among southern Alberta residents about radon gas, after a study was released last week by the University of Calgary Cummings School of Medicine indicating radon levels were high within many homes.
Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is produced when uranium in the ground breaks down, it can accumulate in buildings as it enters any place where the building touches the soil and there is an opening.
In small levels it is not harmful to humans, however it is an known carcinogen, and one of the most typical causes of lung cancer is high radon exposure.
Town of Okotoks Environment and Sustainability Coordinator Dawn Smith says if any residents are concerned about radon levels in their home, they can get a detector for free from the Town.
"We do have two radon detectors that we've included within our Do-it-Yourself Energy Audit Kit, that kit also has a thermal camera and other types of appliances that help you measure different things in a home."
She advises the town only rents it out for short term testing, if levels are high it is recommended further radon testing be done.
"We're only giving the kit out for one week, so the test would be a short term test. You can do a 24 hour test, or you can leave it out for the full 7 days, and that just gives you a quick indication of the levels in your home. If they are high were do recommend doing a detailed test over several months."
Although radon testing is most accurate during the winter heating months, when a house is sealed, Smith shares it wont hurt to check levels in the summer.
"It's still worth doing the first level test with the kit, and if you do have a high level in the summer, then you should get a more thorough test in the winter. However, if you do get a negative test or a very low reading in the summer, that could be a false reading, so we suggest that you still follow up in the winter with the DIY kit to test again."
As for mitigation, the most common method is installing a pipe through the basement foundation into the ground, and piping the gas from below the basement floor out through the side of the house.
Smith shares if you have a home built after 2014, Radon mitigation may already be installed after changes to the Alberta Building Code.
"New home construction does require that a pipe be put in every home's foundation. It's capped off right now in your foundation typically in your furnace room, and if you do have high radon levels all you need to do is install the pipe outside."
There are a number of radon services in the area that specialize in long term testing a mitigation, including Radon West.