Thursday, July 5, 2007

An End to the Radon Saga

We had a surprise at the door this morning. At 9 a.m. the radon mitigation installer showed up a day early. Earliness is not something we've experienced when dealing with contractors or other building professionals before. We certainly didn't complain since we've been waiting nearly three months to have our system installed.

The saga began when we had an inspection on our house prior to the purchase. The inspector gave us a sheet of information about radon, recommended a test and offered to do it for half price while he was in the house. Being the bargain shopper that I am, half price sounded good, so we ordered the test.

Even though the information our inspector had given us showed North Idaho has extremely high levels of radon, we didn't expect ours to come back high. Our house registered levels as high as 8 pCi/L during the 48 hour test. The EPA recommends "fixing" your house if your average level is above 4.

At first I didn't know what to think of the test. I wondered if it could be a fluke or maybe just wasn't that important. Once I started doing research, I knew we couldn't ignore the problem.

Radon is a gas caused by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. The gas works it's way up through the soil and into your house through the foundation. It will accumulate at the lowest level. Outside, radon is not a problem because is dissipates in the air. However, in your house (especially well sealed ones), the radon is contained and breathed. Radon, according to the EPA, is the second leading cause (behind smoking) of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA claims it causes more deaths per year than exposure to second hand smoke. The certified mitigation installer told us about 20,000 people die each year from lung cancer, or about half the number that die in car accidents.

The numbers might not seem high considering how many people live in the United States, but they are too high to ignore. We don't smoke and although we've exposed ourselves to second hand smoke, we certainly would never expose Munchkin to it. Along those lines, we couldn't knowingly keep exposing our son to a cancer causing gas. Especially when that gas is in our own home and the problem can be fixed.

Today the certified specialist installed the radon mitigation system. He cut through the concrete slab in the basement, inserted a pipe, ran the pipe up through the attic and out the roof. A fan sucks air through, taking the radon directly from the ground and out through the pipe. Theoretically, opening a window and creating a breeze through the house will do the same thing, but who wants to open the windows in the middle of winter.

It costs about three times as much to retrofit an existing house than it does to install the mitigation system during construction. This has been a point of frustration for us since our area has known high levels of radon. There is no building code in Kootenai County requiring that radon be dealt with. In fact, Jim Faust, the Idaho State "radon guy" told me that only one county (Blaine) in Idaho has requirements about radon. However, Realtors are now bringing it up as a good investment for resale value. Once a house is tested for radon, it must be disclosed when the house is sold under the hazardous materials law, according to the Panhandle Health website.

I am glad to finally have our house fixed, but I wasn't losing sleep over the problem. I figured the levels are no higher than what DD and I have been exposed to our whole lives in this area. For Munchkin though, in regards to radon, I feel like we've fulfilled our parental duties by making his home safer. Now it's time for the powers that control building codes to do their part and take steps to require radon mitigation systems or at least testing. Radon in known to cause lung cancer. What else can it do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! I don't know you! But I'm posting this at one in the morning, which I don't do often and I'm high on coffee right now and I'm soooooo buzzed and it's pretty cool and stuff cause I love coffee but I've never drank it so late and I guess this is what happens when you do drink it that late and I think it's great!!!!!!!! Anyway I wish I could sleep but I can't cause I love coffee too much but who cares it tastes good and stuff, coffee! Bye bye now good blog love radon, had a cat named radon once but it died of radiation poisoning ironic huh? Yeah I thought so too and boy I love coffee okay bye! Thanksthanksthanks!!!