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Couple’s Home Tests Out As Far Too Gassy

Wed., Feb. 15, 1995

Carol Renner says her spacious golf-course home here is like a defective new car.

Earlier this month, she learned levels of radon gas in her 2-year-old home were nearly 77 times higher than the level at which the federal government recommends protective action.

The reading is the highest experts have seen in a North Idaho home.

It’s like buying a “a car with a steering wheel that comes off,” Renner said.

On a whim, Renner and her husband Bob recently tested their home for the colorless, odorless gas which has been linked to lung cancer.

The test showed their basement crawl space contained 306.1 picocuries of radon per liter of air. The rest of the house ranged from 120 to 150 during repeated testing.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends corrective action above four picocuries.

Tests of 147 homes in Post Falls averaged 16.9, according to Air Check Inc., a North Carolina firm that analyzes and compiles radon test results.

After a lifetime exposure to four picocuries of radon, the EPA estimates, two people out of 1,000 will develop lung cancer. That’s equal to the risk of drowning. With radon exposure five times higher than the EPA’s action level, a person stands the same chance of developing lung cancer as he or she does dying in a violent crime.

The Renners’ problem is not surprising, said Sylvia Riddle, co-owner of Cavalier Corp., a Spokane firm that tests for radon in Washington and Idaho. The Renners hired her to begin the $2,000 job of eliminating the gas.

Radon is created by the natural decaying of radium and uranium found in rocks and soil. Mount Spokane once was loaded with uranium, which was distributed through glacial outwash.

Idaho does not require builders to install radoneliminating devices in new homes, though many builders do so anyway.

“When you have problem soils and no prevention, it’s no mystery,” Riddle said.

Spokane builders must run a plastic pipeline from beneath the house to the roof. Building officials leave an optional test kit for homeowners.

If the home has high radon levels, owners can install a $200 fan that draws the gases out of the house. The Renners say Idaho should enact similar laws.

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