The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 deaths are caused each year by radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and according to the US EPA, nearly 1 in 4 homes checked in seven states, and on three Indian lands, had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for exposure.
The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the same alpha radiation emitted by other alpha generating radiation sources such as plutonium.
A family whose has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure)
An elementary student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/L of will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant. (25 mrem limit, 200 mrem exposure)
Most U.S. EPA lifetime safety standards for carcinogens are established based on a 1 in 100,000 risk of death. Most scientists agree that the risk of death for radon at 4 pCi/L is approximately 1 in 100. At the 4 pCi/L EPA radon action guideline level, carries approximately 1000 times the risk of death as any other EPA carcinogen. The EPA has proposed to require community water suppliers to provide water with radon levels no higher than 4,000 pCi/L, which contributes about 0.4 pCi/L of radon to the air in your home. It is important to note that the action level is not a safe level, as there are no “safe” levels of radon gas.
What is radon?
A layman’s description
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste , but it may be a problem in your . The Surgeon General has warned that is the second leading cause of in the United States today. If you smoke and your has high levels, you’re at high risk for developing . Some scientific of exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to . This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.
A scientific description: Radon is a gaseous highly radioactive element discovered by English physicist Ernest Rutherford in 1899. The discovery is also credited to German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn in 1900. More specifically, Rutherford discovered radon’s alpha radiation and Dorn discovered that radium was releasing a gas.
Radon is a colorless chemically-unreactive inert gas. The atomic radius is 1.34 angstroms and it is the heaviest known gas–radon is nine times denser than . Because it is a single atom gas (unlike oxygen, O2, which is comprised of two atoms) it easily penetrates many common materials like paper, leather, low-density plastic (like plastic bags, etc.) most paints, and building materials like gypsum board (sheetrock), concrete block, mortar, sheathing paper (tar paper), wood paneling, and most insulations.
Radon is also fairly soluble in and organic solvents. Although reaction with other compounds is comparatively rare, it is not completely inert and forms stable molecules with highly electronegative materials. is considered a noble gas that occurs in several isotopic forms. Only two are found in significant concentrations in the human environment: -222, and -220. -222 is a member of the radioactive decay chain of uranium-238. -220 is formed in the decay chain of thorium-232. -222 decays in a sequence of radionuclides called decay products, daughters, or progeny. It is -222 that most readily occurs in the environment. Atmospheric releases of -222 results in the formation of decay products that are radioisotopes of heavy metals (polonium, lead, bismuth) and rapidly attach to other airborne materials such as dust and other materials facilitating inhalation.
PRODUCTION: is not produced as a commercial product. is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well may also be a source of .
EXPOSURE: The primary routes of potential human exposure to are inhalation and ingestion. in the ground, groundwater, or building materials enters working and living spaces and disintegrates into its decay products. Although high concentrations of in groundwater may contribute to exposure through ingestion, the inhalation of released from is usually more important.
IN THE WORKPLACE: In comparison with levels in outdoor , humans in confined spaces, particularly in underground work areas such as mines and buildings, are exposed to elevated concentrations of and its decay products. Exhalation of from ordinary rock and soils and from -rich can cause significant concentrations in tunnels, power stations, caves and public baths. The average concentrations in are generally much lower than the average concentrations in underground ore mines.
Workers are exposed to in several occupations. In countries for which data were available, concentrations of decay products in underground mines are now typically less than 1000 Bq/m3 EEC Rn (approx. 28 pCi/L). Underground uranium miners are exposed to the highest levels of and its decay products. Other underground workers and certain mineral processing workers may also be exposed to significant levels.
What should you look for?
Testing is the only way to know your radon level. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. The US EPA, Surgeon General, American Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for radon because testing is the only way to know your radon level.
Radon is a national environmental problem and elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state. The US EPA estimates that as many as 8 million throughout the country have elevated levels of radon. Current state surveys show that 1 in 5 has elevated radon levels.
Can you fix the problem?
It’s best to rely on a professional – especially when dealing with a carcinogen. In fact, many U.S. states require radon professionals to be certified and licensed in their field. You can quickly located a RadonAway Authorized Radon Pro in your area for a free consultation.