Renters discover toxic, radioactive gas in Venice homes

Renters discover toxic, radioactive gas in Venice homes

SARASOTA (WWSB) - A community in Venice has learned residents have been breathing in a toxic, radioactive gas inside their own homes.

Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot taste, smell or see, but it could potentially kill you. If it wasn’t for one couple renting at the Waterside Village Condominiums, the community probably would have never known.

“I have thyroid cancer and I heard that toxins can be a contributor to it," said Elise, one of the tenants who discovered the gas. "I heard them talking about radon at the doctor’s office, so I decided to test for it here because I was concerned.”

When Elise got the test results back, the levels were close to five times higher than normal. A safe radon level is four picocuries. Elise’s test results came back at 22.1 picocuries.

She and her husband rent the condo and when they told their landlords what was happening, the landlords turned to the homeowners' association for help.

“My feeling is that the entire building here should be mitigated, and if not, the Board of Directors will have fallen down on the job," said Tony Turlenko, one of the landlords. "It’s their responsibility to at least test the other units.”

However, that didn’t happen. Radon is the second leading cause of cancer, but there is no law in Florida that forces homeowners to test for it. As a result, lawyers for the homeowners' association recommended that each condo owner take care of the issues themselves.

“It never leaves your lungs, for life, and that’s priceless," said Elise. "They’re worried about $3,000, but what about what happened to us?”

The landlords were willing to pay to get rid of the radon, until the homeowners' association presented them with a waiver that made the Turlenkos responsible if higher radon levels were found in neighboring units.

“To me, that’s just ignoring the health issue involved in this whole thing," said Turlenko. "I was willing to pay the $3,100 and they’ve stopped me from doing it. When my tenants leave, I still need to mitigate this problem and I still don’t have the approval to do it unless I sign a covenant saying I’m responsible for what happens to the whole building.”

While the debate still continues on who will have to mitigate the poisonous gas, the renters have had to find somewhere else to call home.

“Meanwhile we have all the risk, we have to breathe in this toxic gas, while they’re going back and forth about money," said Dan, Elise’s husband. "They’re basically forcing us out. He’s saying he didn’t sign up for this, but did we sign up for this? We expected a safe, livable environment.”

Radon is found in one out of every four Florida homes. It isn’t mandatory to test your home, but if you’d like to, the Sarasota County Health Department gives out radon testing kits for free at their office. You can find more information here.

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