Home builders’ association warns radon gas standard is dangerous

According to documents procured by CBC, Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), said Canada’s guidelines on radon gas mitigation are “dangerous.”
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The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) believes the country’s first-ever set of guidelines on radon gas mitigation is “dangerous,” according to documents procured by CBC.

“This standard is being rushed to publication while there remain many unresolved issues which could result in severe and immediate health problems, and even death,” said Kevin Lee, CEO of CHBA, in a letter to Jane Philpott, who was the federal health minister at that time.

“Moving forward with the publication of the standard in its present state—before necessary research has been completed, and without addressing serious technical issues—poses a significant risk to the health of Canadians and the integrity of their homes.”

He urged Philpott to take immediate action “to ensure that Canadians are not positioned to rely on a flawed standard—a standard that could put their health, lives, and homes at risk.”

The Canadian General Standards Board (CAN/CGSB) 149.12-2017, Radon mitigation options for existing low-rise residential buildings, was published in November 2017.

Radon, a radioactive gas, moves easily through bedrock and soil, and either escapes into outdoor air (where it is rapidly diluted), or into enclosed spaces (e.g. homes), where it can sometimes accumulate to high levels. According to CAN/CGSB 149.12-2017, this accumulation increases the long-term risk of lung cancer for occupants.

Mitigation of radon gas in a home may be accomplished using two basic methods. High levels of radon are kept from entering the building by employing active soil depressurization (ASD) systems. Alternatively, once radon is present in the home, it can be diluted with outdoor air through the installation of heat recovery ventilators (HRV) or energy recovery ventilators (ERV).

According to the documents obtained by CBC, Health Canada has rejected CHBA’s claims.

“None of the outstanding issues that you have raised poses significant risks to the health, well-being, or the property of Canadians,” said Tim Singer, a director-general at Health Canada, in a letter to Lee. “Furthermore, delaying publication of this standard leaves Canadians in the precarious situation of having no standard for radon mitigation in existing buildings, or having to adopt a standard from another country, which would not adequately identify and address Canadian requirements.”

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