Radon Program

During 2019/20, UCalgary will conduct Phase 2 of the Radon Monitoring project. 


UCalgary Radon Monitoring Project

As part of the Risk portfolio’s proactive approach to ensuring a safe and healthy environment for our community, Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) is leading a long-term project to measure radon levels in university-owned buildings. 


What is Radon?

Radon is an odourless, colourless and radioactive gas that arises from soils all over the Canadian Prairies, and can accumulate to unsafe levels within indoor environments. Long-term exposure to radon is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.

Radon can enter a building through openings where the building contacts the soil such as: cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, or gaps around service pipes. 

The Testing Process

Radon levels in a building can vary significantly over time — to derive accurate radon concentration readings, a minimum three-month measurement period is required. Testing is done in the winter months (Oct. – Apr.) during the heating season when buildings tend to be sealed off from the outside air.

A radon measurement device is about the size of a hockey puck. The devices are strategically placed in rooms that are occupied more than four hours per day and have floors or walls in direct contact with soil. 

Mitigation Methods

Mitigation methods can vary significantly depending on the room or building. In many cases, a simple adjustment to the ventilation system can do the trick — other issues may require foundation repair or supplemental ventilation systems.

Working With the Best

UCalgary will plan and execute phase one of the project in collaboration with Radon West, an external consulting company that is Canadian certified in both the measurement and mitigation of radon. Radon West was selected through an RFP process.

UCalgary is also lucky to have available the expertise of globally recognized radon gas researcher, Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD and assistant professor at the University of Calgary. In addition to acting as a consultant on the University Radon Monitoring Project, Goodarzi currently leads the Evict Radon campaign to test tens of thousands of western Canadian homes for radon.

Get in Touch

For questions and comments about the university Radon Monitoring Project, email ucsafety@ucalgary.ca. To learn about testing your own home for radon, visit Health Canada or the Evict Radon site


UCalgary Radon Monitoring Project - Phase 2 (2019/20)

Phase 2 of the UCalgary Radon Measurement Project is planned for 2019/20. Radon measurement devices will be deployed during fall 2019 and collected for analysis after three months.

With the exception of buildings undergoing renovations or sustainability initiatives, Phase 2 will measure radon levels in buildings that have both a sub-basement and basement occupancy of more than four hours a day, as per Health Canada’s occupancy definition. Field stations and some buildings with unique conditions are also included in Phase 2.

Buildings included in Phase 2 include the following:

Field Stations:

  • Kananaskis (Barrier Lake) – multiple buildings
  • WR Ranches – multiple buildings
  • Rothney Astrophysical Observatory Lab and Interpretative Centre
  • RB Miller Research Station and Trailer
    To be monitored for three-months during the occupancy period (April and October)
  • Kluane Mess Hall
    To be monitored for three-months during the occupancy period (April and October)

Main Campus:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Calgary Centre for Innovative Technology
  • Engineering Blocks A, B, C, D, F, G
  • Heating Plant
  • Science B

Spyhill Campus:

  • Clinical Skills building
  • High Density Library
  • Veterinary Science research station

UCalgary Radon Monitoring Project - Phase 1 (2018/19)

During fall and winter 2018/19, the university proactively monitored radon levels in on-campus student residence buildings, student family housing units, and daycare facilities. Investigation and mitigation activities were concluded during spring and summer.

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UCalgary Approach Aligned with World Health Organization Guidelines 

Health Canada recommends that residential radon levels between 200 and 600 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq/m3) be mitigated within two years, while the World Health Organization proposes a reference level of 100 Bq/m3 to minimize radon-related health hazards. With these recommendations in mind, UCalgary has committed to achieving radon levels less than 100 Bq/m3.

Daycare Facilities

Radon monitoring results from all on-campus childcare facilities (the Child Care Centre, the Child Development Centre and Renfrew Educational Services) were well below 100 Bq/m3 — radon levels in these facilities were shown to be equivalent to those found outdoors. No mitigation efforts are required.

Residences 

Of 684 samples placed in student residence buildings and student family housing units on campus, only four returned results above 100 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq/m3). None reported levels greater than 300 Bq/m3

Investigation and mitigation efforts will be initiated this spring and summer, and all four units will be re-tested following mitigation activities to verify radon levels have been brought below 100 Bq/m3. Only one of the units with elevated radon levels is currently occupied — the resident living there has been given detailed information and accommodation options. 

HVAC Systems to Thank for Low Radon Indoors

Results did demonstrate that radon is in the soil below campus, just as it is all over the Canadian prairies. The fact that it is not accumulating to unsafe levels within our residence and childcare facilities is a testament to effective HVAC systems and operations, which circulate and vent the air so that radon does not build up in one area.