Combating radon with scientific research

An active soil depressurization system in the Indoor Air Research Laboratory (IARL), with an outdoor downdraft radon fan at ground level, is shown above.

NRC has also developed Canada’s first ISO-compliant radon diffusion test chamber—it was developed and commissioned according to the specifications and requirements of ISO/DTS 11665-13, Measurement of Radioactivity in the Environment–Air: Radon 222–Part 13: Determination of the Diffusion Co-efficient in Waterproof Materials: Membrane Two-side Activity Concentration Measurement Method. It supports manufacturers so their products can be evaluated for radon-permeability in a precisely controlled environment with radon activity levels higher than 1.0 MBq/m3, as defined by the ISO standard.

Randi Fox, an architect with Terra Vent Systems Inc., said in an unpublished 2015 interview: “RIBETS is vital to progress in radon mitigation, which is a worldwide concern. With NRC’s radon research and now RIBETS, Canada is gaining ground as a leader in radon solutions.” Federal, provincial, and municipal building officials, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), engineers, architects, environmental and building engineering companies, and home builders are all showing a strong interest in the products that have been evaluated in the radon diffusion test chambers.

RIBETS and the radon diffusion test chamber additions complement NRC’s CCHT and IARL research facilities, as well as further expanding testing capabilities. The NRC radon team can now test and evaluate all relevant approaches dealing with preventing and reducing radon entry, and thus can accommodate the value chain and promote the uptake of verified technologies.

Radon mitigation is a serious business, and it requires facilities and expertise to support the discovery of innovative solutions that can eventually become commonplace. The knowledge gained from these studies enables health regulators to incorporate an increasing number of verified solutions into Canadian radon guidance and standards. The studies also provide evidence-based knowledge to the NBC standing committee to help it publish its illustrated user’s guides and address building code change requests. Overall, the goal is to protect Canadians from radon and provide solutions for radon-mitigation practitioners to achieve better results with a larger array of options.

Hans Schleibinger, PhD, is an environmental engineer who worked in the areas of air and water pollution control, prevention of mould growth, hospital hygiene, toxicology, and environmental analysis in Germany. He has headed the Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Group of the National Research Council (NRC) since 2005, evaluating products and technological solutions for the building sector and creating evidence-based knowledge for Canadian stakeholders. Schleibinger was also one of the founders of the Canadian Committee on Indoor Air Quality and Buildings (CCIAQB). He can be reached vis e-mail at


Deepti Bijlani holds a master’s in microbiology from the University of Mumbai, India. She has been the senior radon project manager within Health Canada’s Radon Technical Operations group since 2010, and has been involved in various technical projects undertaken in collaboration with stakeholders under the National Radon Program. Bijlani currently manages several projects for the group, including two national radon mitigation standards in development. Prior to joining Health Canada, she worked for more than nine years in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry as a quality control and research microbiologist in the nuclear medicine field. Bijlani can be reached at

Liang Grace Zhou, PhD, earned her doctorate in building engineering at Concordia University, where she also completed projects for Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) to optimize building design for federal net-zero targets. She joined NRC as a research officer on the Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Group in 2008, and led her team in developing one of Canada’s first and two of the world’s first radon test facilities, as well as completing research activities and product validations to control radon in buildings. Zhou can be reached at


Jeff Whyte holds degrees in chemistry and analytical chemistry. He is the head of the Radon Technical Operations group working on the National Radon Program at Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau. Whyte has more than 30 years of experience in chemical and radiochemical research in the private and public sectors. He was a member of the Joint Task Group on Protection Against Radon Ingress for the 2010 National Building Code (NBC), and is the chair of the technical committee for two national radon mitigation standards under development. Whyte can be reached at

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