Skip to main content

Radon - The Science

Radon is a radioactive gas that can get trapped inside buildings. After smoking, radon is the main cause of lung cancer.

Some of the facts about radon may surprise you, for instance that even new homes can have high levels of radon.

Read up on the facts and then find out about testing in our Reduce Your Risk section.

What is radon?

Radon is a gas that is released from the ground when uranium in rocks and soil breaks down.

Radon has no colour, smell or taste. The only way to know if there are high levels of radon in your home is to test.

Radon can become a danger to your health when it gets trapped inside homes and other buildings, and builds up to a high level.


How does radon get inside your home and other buildings?

Radon levels are much higher inside than outside.

Radon can enter homes and other buildings through:


  • Cracks in floors, walls, or a building's foundation
  • Openings for drains, utility systems, and other openings in the foundation
  • Unfinished floors, wall joints, or other openings in homes

Indoor radon levels are affected by many things. For example:


  • By what makes up the soil under and around your home.
  • Basements often have higher levels of radon since they are often below ground and don't have good air flow.
  • Homes that are well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or built on soil rich in uranium, thorium and radium may have high radon levels (including new homes!).
  • Rain, snow and barometric pressure can cause radon levels to change from month to month or day to day.

Radon and Lung Cancer

Radon in buildings where you spend a lot of time can increase your chance of getting lung cancer.


  • When you breathe in the tiny matter from radon it can damage your lung cells. This damage can cause lung cancer.
  • After smoking, radon is the main cause of lung cancer. Health Canada estimates that over 3,300 Canadians die each year due to radon gas exposure. The lower the radon concentration in a home, the lower the risk of it causing lung cancer.
  • If you are also a smoker, your lung cancer risk is even higher when you are also around radon. Most cancer deaths related to radon are of smokers.

Here are BC statistics (2015 data*) on the number of new diagnoses (male and female) for cancer that was likely caused by radon exposure:

 

  • Lung : 140
 
 


SOURCE: Radon - The Science ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Cancer. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2020 Provincial Health Services Authority