Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Radon in Coeur d'Alene

Considering buying a home in Coeur d'Alene or anywhere else in Kootenai County? Be sure to ask the real estate agent about radon testing and mitigation. Do not accept any representation or intimation that radon does not exist here; it does. At the same time, the presence of radon should not be a deal-breaker, because radon mitigation is available. Mitigation is reasonable but not cheap.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soil. Your risk of exposure to radon depends on the permeability of the soil under your house, the construction of the house, and the amount of radon in the soil. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, but it can be detected and measured with inexpensive and simple tests. Next to smoking, prolonged radon exposure is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer in the US.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, radon levels in Kootenai, Shoshone, and Bonner counties routinely exceed 4 picoCuries per liter (abbreviated 4 pCi/L). According to a Panhandle Health District press release, the average indoor radon level in Kootenai County is 13.1 pCi/L. The average indoor radon level for Idaho is 6.1 pCi/L. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends radon mitigation when levels exceed 4 pCi/L.

If you are considering having a home built in Kootenai County or buying an existing home, take the time to thoroughly review the State of Idaho's brochure Dealing with RADON in Real Estate Transactions. Keep in mind that radon is a hazardous material, so the property seller must disclose to you the results of any radon testing that has been done and any mitigation that is in place. That does not mean, however, that the seller must have tested for radon; just that any test results must be disclosed.

When we purchased our home in Coeur d'Alene in 2000, the laboratory test results showed radon levels in our unfinished basement to be considerably less than 4 pCi/L. In February 2005 I retested, and the laboratory determined that our basement radon level is now 8.15 pCi/L.

The good news for us is that radon mitigation is reasonably priced and effective, so we will have it installed when we finish the basement in the next year or two. It would have been even less expensive if the original homeowner had installed it during initial construction.


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