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Radon mitigation changes to B.C. Building Code praised by advocates

BC Building Code changes will see mandatory rough-in radon-mitigation in new home construction
This pipe vents radon gases from Jill Hall’s Chilliwack home. Hall is a non-smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer and is now warning people of the risks of radon. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The lurking dangers of radon gas in homes across the province - are the reason for a key change coming to the BC Building Code.

Making rough-in radon mitigation mandatory for all new home construction across B.C. is expected to be announced in early 2024. It means the radon-control piping leads outside but homeowners have to install the fan system.

Some prominent Chilliwack residents and real estate professionals have been pushing hard behind the scenes for this change.

Jill Hall, a Realtor and advocate for radon action, started speaking out publicly about it after being diagnosed with radon-caused lung cancer. She has been firing off email after email in the past few months about the lack of action by public health officials, the importance of getting more Chilliwack homes tested, and the need for many homeowners to install radon mitigation systems.

The problem with newer home construction is the airtight nature of them, which is causing higher-than-safe radon levels in some residences. That has come to light on the heels of a flurry of recent testing by owners, having been urged to do so by the Chilliwack advocates.

Radon is an odourless gas that seeps out of the ground into cracks in the foundation and has been linked to lung cancer. A reading of anything above 200 becquerels per cubic metre is a concern, and above 600 requires an immediate fix.

Two Chilliwack city councillors, who are also involved in real estate and development, Chris Kloot and Harv Westeringh, have been amplifying those calls to action from Chilliwack, after Hall started blasting out information she and her brother Tony Gore gathered about high readings in Chilliwack, and the relatively simple fix.

Westeringh fired off a letter to BC Financial Services Authority last month urging them to make a radon course mandatory for Realtors, as one way to educate more people on the radon realities.

There is an existing “Radon for REALTORS” course online, but it’s not mandatory yet.

“Radon has recently been highlighted as a growing concern for our citizens,” Westeringh wrote in his letter to BCFSA dated Oct. 21. “In Chilliwack, for some reason, we were omitted from the BC Building Code requirements for radon mitigation systems.”

Westeringh and others lobbied hard for changes.

“I strongly believe that we should make ‘Radon Gas’ a mandatory course that all Realtors must take, once in their two-year cycle. This has worked well for ‘Money-Laundering’ and other issues that Realtors should be aware of,” Westeringh concluded in his letter.

BC Real Estate Association recently updated its course for Realtors and BCFSA is considering whether it should be mandatory.

That growing awareness about radon has not yet penetrated the public consciousness, or not in a way that sparks action.

When Hall and her brother, Tony Gore, a builder, started gathering testing kits and testing homes around Chilliwack with Take Action on Radon, they were shocked by what they found.

“With a population of 100,000, Chilliwack showed five per cent of homes testing for unacceptable radon levels,” said Hall told The Progress in June. “This would suggest 5,000 homeowners are breathing in highly carcinogenic radioactive gas.”

Many may not realize it is their responsibility to do due diligence by testing their own homes to see where the levels are at, and installing mitigation systems if need be. The way radon mitigation systems work is by venting gases from the basement or crawl space through vent pipes leading to the exterior. They are not too expensive given the health risks, or overly complicated, and more businesses are starting up specifically to install them.

For more info on testing for radon go to Take Action on Radon.

RELATED: Cancer-stricken Chilliwack residents sounds alarm on radon

RELATED: City councillor raises issue of high radon readings

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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