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How to protect your family from deadly, invisible gases

How to protect your family from deadly, invisible gasesRadon and carbon monoxide are poisonous gases that are odourless, colourless and tasteless, making them threats to the safety of your home. Exposure to high levels of radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, causing over 3,200 Canadian deaths each year.1 Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America.2

By following the steps below and taking the proper precautions, you can help protect your home and family from these deadly gases. 

Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally created when uranium in the ground breaks down. Outside, the gas is diluted to safe levels, but when it is trapped in a confined area, such as a home, a high concentration can build up and become deadly. Radon can enter your home through openings such as cracks in your foundation, gaps around service pipes or construction joints, and window casements. 

1.    Test for radon

Performing a radon test is the only way to know if there are harmful levels of radon in your home. Radon levels can vary widely even between homes on the same street, so it’s always best to test your individual home to ensure your safety. 

You can purchase a radon test kit for $25-$75, or you can hire a radon measurement professional. Health Canada recommends using a long-term radon test kit that comes with a radon detector. These long-term radon test kits must be in place for three months in a commonly used area at or near the lowest level of your home during winter, when all your windows remain closed.

2.    Assess the results

Radon is harmful at levels of over 200 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). If your test reveals radon levels higher than 200 Bq/m3, you will need to work with a professional to find a solution to reduce the radon to a safe level.

3.    Install a radon mitigation system

If your home has harmful levels of radon, contact a certified radon professional to discuss radon mitigation options for your home. Solutions can include installing a pipe in your foundation that draws out gas with a fan, sealing gaps, removing radon from below the building, or ventilating the building. Most of these systems can be installed in less than one day and will reduce radon levels by more than 80%. The cost of these systems can vary between $500 to $3,000 depending on the size and design of your home and the work that is needed.3  

Unfortunately installing a radon mitigation system is considered home maintenance and not covered by home insurance. However, if you have recently bought a new home, the Tarion warranty you have as a part of the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act and Regulations will have radon coverage for seven years.4

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that can leak from anything that burns fossil fuels, including furnaces, exhaust vents for gas appliances, wood burning fireplaces, and exhaust fumes from idling cars—88% of homes have something that could pose a CO threat.5 When you’re exposed to high levels of CO, it prevents the flow of oxygen to the heart, brain, and vital organs. Low levels can result in flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion, fatigue, and shortness of breath, while high levels can be fatal. 

1.    Prevent carbon monoxide exposure

Make sure your fuel-burning appliances, venting systems, and chimneys are serviced and maintained by a qualified service technician. Never use fuel-burning appliances designed for the outdoors such as barbeques, lanterns, chainsaws, lawnmowers, or snowblowers in an enclosed area and don’t idle your vehicle in an attached garage.

2.    Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors

Make sure you have a working CO detector installed on each level of your home. It’s required in Ontario to have a CO detector near all sleeping areas in residential homes that contain fuel-burning appliances and attached garages.5

Ensure that your CO detector is not covered by furniture, drapes, or plugged into wall-switch controlled outlets and is placed at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances. Test your CO detector monthly. If it is battery operated, change the batteries as often as your manufacturer recommends or when you hear a warning chirp.

3.    Have a plan

Make sure you have a plan in place before the CO alarm goes off, so that everyone in your family knows what to do. Develop a fire escape plan and arrange a meeting point at a safe distance from your house. If the alarm sounds, get out of your house immediately and contact your local fire department for assistance. If anyone shows symptoms of CO poisoning, call 911. 

Looking for more ways to protect your home and assets through your home insurance policy? Contact your OTIP broker at 1-888-892-4935 today to discuss your insurance options.

1. Take Action on Radon
2. Canada Safety Council 
3. Health Canada
4. Tarion
5. Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs