Brian from Bruce County, Ontario did so and found that his house had radon levels of over 4,000 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m³). That's a scary number — but what does it mean?

Canadians are inundated by articles about cancer risk factors. One week we learn that coffee increases our risk of cancer, and then the next week we learn that it lowers it. It can all be very confusing between the speed of new research and irresponsibility of some reporting on the subject. But, there are some cancer risk factors that are extremely well understood and also reasonably easy to safeguard yourself against.

“How ionizing radiation causes cancer has been very well researched and very well documented,” says Chief Scientist Laura Boksman of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada (RSIC). “It's really cut and dry that more exposure to radiation means a greater risk of cancer.”

The deadly gas that's all around us

Radon is a colourless and odourless source of ionizing radiation that seeps up from rocks and soil throughout the country. It finds its way into the air we breathe outdoors, as well as into our homes and workplaces. About seven percent of homes in Canada have been found to have radon levels above Health Canada's recommendation of at most 200 Bq/m³. Health Canada states that radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers, and analysis suggests this results in over 3,000 radon-related deaths in Canada each year.

But, too few Canadians are aware of the risk. “Awareness and education are really the key factors when you're looking to prevent unacceptable exposure to radiation,” says RSIC President and CEO Steve Horvath. “Every effort that we make today to reduce risk of radiation exposure will provide long-term health benefits for all Canadians.”

Because we live on a radioactive planet some exposure is inevitable. The background levels of radon in Canada are on average between 10–20 Bq/m³ outdoors,but they can be much higher indoors.

Reducing cancer risk by a factor of 200

For Brian, the cancer risk from breathing the air in his home was over 200 times as severe as outdoor levels. By sealing up cracks and gaps in his basement flooring and installing a sub-slab depressurization system, Brian was able to bring his home's radon levels down to practically background

And, if he hadn't tested with the RSIC National Laboratories in the first place, he would never have known any of this safeguarding was necessary. Radon levels are not something you want to remain in the dark on. Get your homes and workplaces tested.