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What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 11:38 AM

Hi all, I'm looking into buying a house and am in the midst of the property inspection. All is going well with the exception of the radon test that came back with an average reading of 8.3 pCi/l between two canisters.

  • Readings were taken in the full basement
  • The house is not currently occupied and it has been closed up tightly
  • The structure is 10 years old
  • There is a heat recovery ventilator installed for the living quarts of the house but not in the basement

My thinking is it could be as simple as installing a powered vent that draws air from close to the floor of the basement. My other idea is to use the Heat Recovery Ventilator to pull the air off the floor and replace with fresh air.

Do you have any experiences you could share before a decision is made to purchase or not?

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#1

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 12:11 PM

It may be a little more complicated than that, there are some simple ideas on the web, here is one for an example:

http://www.carsondunlop.com/home-inspection-services/how-to-detect-and-get-rid-of-radon/

There are companies that also specialize in doing this.

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#2

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 12:18 PM

Well several variables are present...first if you are old, who cares? second, are you going to live in the basement? third, 8 is not that high....forth, how low can you beat them down on the price? remember that if you plan on selling some time in the future....When your broker said he had a hot property, he wasn't kidding....

http://www.radon.com/radon/radon_FAQ.html

http://www.radonsolutionsmankato.com/radon-removal-testimonials.php

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#3

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 3:53 PM

Ventilation to your established (if any) local zoning codes is your best bet. Radon is heavier than air. This is why it tends to gather in basements. However, it is chemically inert so it scatters easily. The basement of a vacant house is the ideal condition to concentrate radon. A simple venting system from your basement to the winds and breezes outside of your house is all one usually needs to do.

Since Radon seeps up from the soil in an area, this is probably a common but hidden problem in that region.

I would not tie any part of the residency air system to the basement venting system.

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#4

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 5:24 PM

In the U.S., almost all radon measurements are reported in "picoCuries per liter," which is abbreviated pCi/L. Internationally, measurements are often reported in "Bequerels per cubic meter" (Bq/m^3). One pCi/L is equal to 37 Bq/m^3.
so you have 307 (Bq/m^3)
Here is a report on the matter

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#5

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 8:21 PM

Call a company that installs Radon systems and get a quote. Then subtract that from the price OR have the current owner install it to your satisfaction before you sign.

I have a system in my house and it works just fine.

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#6

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/09/2015 11:55 PM

I did a radon test some years ago. I think the instructions were to ventilate the area well, and then close it up for 2 or 3 weeks before starting the cannister test. If you don't do it that way the readings will be high. I believe any radon test must be shared with a buyer of the home to be legal.

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#7

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/10/2015 12:16 AM

If I remember correctly the acceptable limit for radon is 3.999 (4.0 fails) p/Ci/l. With a level of 8.3 you probably will not be able to obtain a certificate of occupancy. In most radon area this is a part of the closing.

The most common and probably the least expensive method is to install a radon sump (Looks like a sump pump sump but without the pump and with a solid cover) flush with the basement floor. From this 4" PVC or ABS pipe is connected and run vertically. Just below the floor of the first floor a Radon Fan is installed. It is a small sealed electric fan, 120vac, with the same fittings to match the pipes. From there the piping is run up to several feet above the roof where the radon/air is discharged. Some people run it outside from the basement level and mount it on the exterior wall up to and above the roof level.

A sump with a sump pump in it can also be used for the container.

An alternate method is to mount the fan above the roof. This has the disadvantage of having to run wires up to it in a wet environment.

http://www.indoor-air-health-advisor.com/do-it-yourself-radon-mitigation.html

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20046344,00.html

After the installation let the fan run for several days or up to a week. Take new measurements and you will be able to pass. Your levels are not extremely high. Many areas of the country have much higher levels where two bigger fans are necessary.

This is based on experience and knowledge.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#27
In reply to #7

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 2:47 PM

It would probably be good if the fan ran a little hot, for days when the air is still. Otherwise, it may end up just raising levels in other parts of the house.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 10:53 PM

truth is not a compromise-

The discharge from the fan is piped up to and above the roof so that shouldn't be a problem. It runs as one continuous transfer pipe, with fan from the cellar sump to above the roof. It suctions the radon/air out of the sump and transfers it through the closed pipe up to the other open end above the roof. This the most common method of remediation because it is not expensive compared to others and much simpler to install. The picture I originally included was from a "Big Orange Box" on-line catalog so there certainly is a market for the fans.

In the local area where I live almost all houses have readings above 4 and local building codes will not issue a certificate of occupancy until remediation is installed and tests repeated to confirm acceptable readings. If you look closely at the roofs of all houses built in the past 30 years, almost everyone of them has the pipe sticking through the roof. It looks just like a toilet vent going through the roof.

This is not a new problem and not a new solution to an old problem. Its been around since the creation of the planet and a method of lowering it in structures was developed for it. Old Old problem, Old Solution.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/14/2015 2:16 AM

Yeah, you are right. It will practically never be a problem.

I just get a kick out if how often people fail to consider/ignore the fact that when you pump something out of your house, drier air, bathroom vent, radon ventilation fan; the same amount of air is being drawn in from the outside to replace the air being exhausted.

If it were a dead calm day and the air being pumped up to exhaust over the room was colder than the surrounding, like basement air can be, then the fact that the pipe through the house is air tight from the basement to the roof; a portion of the exhausted air would likely be drawn right back into the house....and not just the basement. Houses have leaks all over. If you pour dense gas on the roof on a still air day and are sucking make -up air into the house, that dense gas is coming all over. even Susie's room.

So that would increase levels on other living space. But that won't occur very often.

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#8

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/10/2015 1:17 AM

Knowing a few more details would help. Specifically;

- is this house in a low lying area, either on a very local scale up to neighborhood scale?

- Is it on a well, or municipal water?

- Was the radon test conducted by a home inspector recommended by one of the real estate agents or seller?

- Were outdoor levels given for comparison?

-- Are you or anyone who will live in the house a smoker?

.

It.helps to have at least a rough estimate of the risks incurred with exposure.

Alpha decay occuring in the lungs is one of the most damaging because of the high charge and typical energyevels involved. As such alpha exposure in the lungs gets a quality factor of 20. So while 8 picocuries per liter is not by any standards hot, the implications are more significant than is typical.

Exposure to 1 pCi/liter continuously yields a little less than 190 mrad/year. With a quality factor of 20 this equates to a little under 3.8 rem/year. Call it 3.75 rem/year if levels were 1pCi and you never left the room.

8 pCi/liter radon 24 hours a day is just shy of 30 rem/year. That is nothing to shrug off. However, it is unlikely you will remain in the basement, and I hope you don't intend to keep anyone down there.

So it is probably more useful to say that in a year you will get 1.25 rem for every hour per day you average in 8 pCi/liter radon. So if you spend two hours every other day on a leap year in the 8pCi/liter radon environment you can expect to have recieved 1.25 rem.

.

What does that mean? Each additional 1 rem received equates.to roughly a 0.5% increase to the roughly 20% base risk that you will die of cancer.

So if you worked in the basement such that pn average you were.down there 8 hours per day everyday and levels remained at 8pCi/l, your risk of dying lf cancer would increase from about 20% to 50% in 6 years.

.

These are of course estimates and probabilities, your mileage may vary. Though I have to say, ventilating looks like a good idea.

.

This comment is long enough, so I'll wait for answers to some of the questions above to allow better response concerning ventilation and minimizing inflow.

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#23
In reply to #8

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 9:10 AM

A few answers to your questions..

  • The house sits on relatively flat terrain but does have a big hill(small mountain) 300 yards in the back yard.
  • The house is on well water. There is a sump in the basement floor that looked to be about 2-3 feet deep.
  • The radon test was conducted by a home inspector.
  • Outdoor levels were not taken for comparison.
  • Unknown if the previous occupant was a smoker. I am not.

Old Salt had mentioned using the existing sump as a collection sump for an exhaust fan. This crossed my mind as well. Anyone think this would not be a good idea? I'm thinking this sump hole may be the primary entry for the radon. The walls of the basement are all poured concrete and while I did not do a full evaluation of the integrity if the seams my impression is that they were pretty good.

Thank you all for you comments, it has been an education reading through your posts. I will likely buy the house that is unless the water test fails. Understanding the issues and the importance of ventilation is key.

Here's a song for you all.. Enjoy!

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 10:14 AM

IMHO the use of the existing sump should be a suitable site to draw radon out. Still, a local radon mitigating company will probably be a good investment to assure you meet local codes.

In the spirit of one ON Topic song here is another one that comes to mind.

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 2:33 PM

If the flat area is essentially a local minimum with limited or no easy exit for more dense gas, then radon may be pooling in the neighborhood when air is relatively still. If that is the case, and radon is not mainly entering up from below, then radon legels may just fluctuate in the area, probably strongly correlated with periods of little breeze. The radon might concentrate in the basement even though it might not be coming predominantly from the basement.

.

Well water can provide a quick path for radon. It does not have to diffuse slowly through the ground if there is a flow of water available to give it a lift.

.

The reason I asked if this was the home inspector (recommended by the real estateagent, correct?) doing the radon test, is that a reading of 8 pCi/l is right at the upper limit suggested by the NCRP (though twice the EPA upper limit for action). If they mentioned th3 NCRP limit to you when the results came back, but not the EPA limit (or downplayed the EPA figure) it is even more fishy.

Home inspectors get most business from real estate agents. If they write reports that dissuade buyers from completing the transaction, they are less likely to get repeat business from that agent. There is a strong incentive to find lots of problems that can be remixed easily and to minimize the implications of or gloss over serious, expensive to remedy, problems.

The point is, 8 pCi/l definitely warrants further investigation if you intend to live there. Levels need to be taken at several places and at least twice, a couple weeks apart. Knowing what you are dealing with is critical.

Get a second survey from someone you chose. You might be able to get the seller to pay or split the cost.

.

Glad to hear you are not a smoker. A comment above has already detailed the drastic increase in risk that the combination yields.

.

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#9

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/11/2015 8:12 AM

as you can see when you ask a question around here you'll get a plethora of regurgitated info from Google. It's incorrect to think you can "get rid of it", but of course it can be dealt with effectively. simple ventilation with make up air will continually purge this space, you can then install a basic detector to passively monitor this Boogieman in the basement.

buy your house and focus on real problems like drowning polar bears and the urgent need to build a an icebreaker in a sea that's suppose to be void of all ice this year.

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#10

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/11/2015 3:58 PM

First of all 8.3 is not that high. Here is a quote from the "Standard Handbook of Environmental Engineering" Page 4.91- "Levels of Radon below 4 pCi/l are generally recognized as acceptable and require no action. As levels increase towards 200 pCi/l additional measurements should be made and some mitigation is warranted." Your level is a lot closer to the lower limit than it is towards 200 so simple ventilation should suffice. Air change rate of at least 0.2 per hour ought to do it.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/11/2015 11:12 PM

This is a long one but worth reading and thinking about. Parts of it a scary!

The EPA apparently does not agree with the information provided. Radon causes LUNG CANCER! If 8.3 is not that high why does 'The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher."

The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. There are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon. No specific subtype of lung cancer is associated with radon exposure.

Only smoking causes more cases of lung cancer. If you smoke and you are exposed to elevated radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides radon risk comparison charts for people who smoke and those who have never smoked. Stop smoking and lower your radon level to reduce your lung cancer risk. "National Radon Program Services http://sosradon.org/health-basics

The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. There are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon. No specific subtype of lung cancer is associated with radon exposure.

Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer, and the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years. http://sosradon.org/health-basics

How much radon is safe? There is no safe level of radon. Your risk for lung cancer increases with higher levels of radon gas and increased exposure.

The following table estimates your lifetime risk of lung cancer death due to long-term exposure to radon.

Radon Risk If You Smoke

Radon Level If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime. . The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to . . . WHAT TO DO:

Stop smoking and . .

20 pCi/L about 260 people could get lung cancer 250 times the risk of drowning Fix your home
10 pCi/L about 150 people could get lung cancer 200 times the risk of dying in a home fire. Fix your home
8 pCi/L about 120 people could get lung cancer 30 times the risk of dying in a fall. Fix your home
4 pCi/L about 62 people could get lung cancer 5 times the risk of dying in an car crash Fix your home
2 pCi/L about 32 people could get lung cancer 6 times the risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L

(Reducing levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult

1.3 pCi/L about 20 people could get lung cancer

Average indoor radon levels

0.4 pCi/L

Average outdoor radon levels

Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower.

Radon Risk If You've Never Smoked

Radon Level If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime. . The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to . . . WHAT TO DO:
20 pCi/L about 36 people could get lung cancer 35 times the risk of drowning Fix your home
10 pCi/L about 18 people could get lung cancer 20 times the risk of dying in a home fire Fix your home
8 pCi/L about 15 people could get lung cancer 4 times the risk of dying in a fall. Fix your home
4 pCi/L about 7 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying in an car crash Fix your home
2 pCi/L about 4 person could get lung cancer The risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L

(Reducing levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult)

1.3 pCi/L Less than 2 person could get lung cancer

Average indoor radon levels

0.4 pCi/L

Average outdoor radon levels

Note: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.

200 pCi/l is so high it is off the scale! If the lung cancer risk for non smokers exposed to Radon at 20 pCi/l is 36 of 1,000 then extrapolation says that at a level of 200 pCi/l, the odds are that 900 out of 1,000 will die of lung cancer! I'll keep my mitigation exhaust fan and enjoy life for a lot longer.

Radon is a known carcinogen. Would you live by Three Mile Island? Why fool around with estimating what are acceptable limits, jury rigged mitigation systems, occasional human actions to vent, and Radon is a killer. What we a doing with most of our answers is encouraging people to play Russian roulette. What are the odds that this chamber is the one with the bullet in it? What are the odds that Radon will kill me? When you know it will probably be too late. Thos are alpha particles, the kind that stick in your body.

Cut out all the errant hypothesizes, all the baseless opinionated guesstimates, and other unscientific solutions and get back to how we want most everything to be solved. Scientific study, laboratory experimentation, statistics, pilot plant operations, engineering and all the other familiar things to us. The facts are there, why reinvent the wheel? Use remediation for anything over 4pCi/l.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#18
In reply to #12

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 11:38 AM

Such a good post....except for the part about 3 Mile Island. 3 Mile Island was a wild success especially concerning containment design, but sold more papers as a unparalleled catastrophe. The media's portrayal introduced significant public irrationality as a driver of energy policy.

It seems like after Chernobyl and Fukushima we would have the Monday morning QB skills to revise our opinion to, 'we knew all along how to build safety into reactors'.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 9:53 PM

I was going to reference the oldest still operating nuclear electrical producing plant in the US, Oyster Creek, NJ, but no one has heard of it. In its life there have been many unplanned shut downs. To often people go by the old paper, aluminum foil and lead barriers. Alpha is stopped by paper so it is harmless, beta is stopped by aluminum foil so it isn't bad, and gamma is stopped by lead so it is bad. Wrong! Alpha can get in your lungs and it is then your own Chernobyl inside you. Just like the Radon of this blog.

My appreciation for nuclear and radiological was greatly changed eleven years ago when I spent a week at Mercury, NV, the site of the post WW2 nuclear bomb tests. Some of the buildings we worked in still had hot spots we couldn't go into those because an atomic bomb had been disassembled there 40-50 years earlier. Glass fused from sand because of the heat of a blast. Areas above ground, and below, that were still hot. Its at the intersection of Jackass Flats Rd and Mercury Highway, about 65 miles NW of Las Vegas.

The following references will give some of the doubting contributors the reality of the Radon out there. Of particular interest are the ones referring to the Ohio Schools.

http://archive.wkyc.com/news/education/article/262483/35/Radon-levels-go-unchecked-in-many-Ohio-schools

http://www.eng.utoledo.edu/aprg/radon/information/rad_conc.html

Would you want your child to go to West Muskingum High School in Muskingum County, with 39 class rooms, 27 of them with levels above the action level of 4 and a highest reading of 44?

MAPS OF RADON LEVELS, WHAT ARE YOUR LEVELS??????

http://www.radon.com/radon/radon_map.html

http://www.city-data.com/radon-zones/

http://geopub.epa.gov/Radon/#_ga=1.54730722.899557922.1437061969

http://www.radon.com/maps/

Radon causes 10% of the lung cancer cases. Get your mitigation going and be safe. The live you save could be your own!

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 12:30 AM

Another contributer to the risk of alpha emitters in your lungs is coal power plants. A typical gigawatt coal power plant in a year will release ton (literally) or uranium and thorium as ultrafine fly ash....out into the air, year in year out.

There alphas emitters have more energy to release though decay because these start higher up the same chain as radon.

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#24
In reply to #19

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 9:17 AM

Thank You Old Salt! Your posts were very informative and helpful with helping me make a decision.

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#13
In reply to #10

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 7:56 AM

For quite a while, there has been increased awareness of the importance of dose to the tracheobroncial epithelium (TBE). This previously was not even used as part of the calculation of the whole body dose, because it was a.small part of the body.

Alpha emitters in the TBE are bad for a number of reasons including long biological half life (slow to clear), high energy, deposited very localg due to high charge, leading to continuing damage at rates challenging ability to heal.

.

Anyway, look up TBE dose from alpha emitters. You will probably have a different view point after reviewing.

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#11

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/11/2015 8:40 PM

Buy the house and open the basement windows once in a while.

It's as simple as that.

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#14

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 8:23 AM

I don't know if there's one available for the US, but the UK has several radon maps available, showing where the hot spots are. Radon in houses is usually the result of granite decomposing underground. It is said that a fortnight's holiday in Cornwall will give you a higher dose than the yearly limit working near a nuclear reactor (I can't verify that, but I've heard various versions of it).

As lyn (and others) have said, ventilation is the key. Maybe check out some UK sites for alternative ideas.

Enjoy the house.

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Guru
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#16
In reply to #14

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 8:42 AM

you better tear out those granite countertops while theres still time!

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Guru
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#21
In reply to #16

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 8:11 AM

PMSL!!!

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#17
In reply to #14

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 10:40 AM

My, my.

I'm so glad to see that you area still with us.

I hope all is well with you.

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Guru
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#22
In reply to #17

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/13/2015 8:12 AM

I escaped from out under the unread PMs...been forum posting for a couple of days now...you only just noticed?!

Hope all is well with you and yours

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#15

Re: What to do with a Radon Level of 8.3 pCi/l

10/12/2015 8:29 AM

You can still walk away from the deal, Mildred.

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