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Radon

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Radon


Radon (222Rn) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas found
in-group 0 of the Periodic table.

Radon's half-life is 3.82 days, into 218Po, which in turn decays to
214Pb, 214BI and 214Po.

These radionuclides are collectively called Radon daughters or radon
progeny and, because they are solids once formed they become attached
to aerosol particles in the air and can be breathed in to the lungs,
where they settle.

The isotopes of 222Rn all emit a-particles as they decay.

Like other ionising radiation, a-particles can damage biological
molecules, increasing the likelihood of cancers, genetic defects and
accelerated ageing, even at low doses.

It is the Radon daughters that deliver the highest radiation dose, but
Rn gas concentrations (often referred to as 'levels') are the ones
normally measured in a room.

Average indoor readings are about 20Bqm-3 (1Bq = 1 decay per second),
while the action level for homes (the concentration level above which
the National Radiological Protection Board, NRPB, recommends to keep
radon out of houses) is 200Bqm-3.

In 1992 Chemistry in Britain published an article on the health
implications of elevated levels of radon in domestic dwellings.

At the time Rn had just become an emotive public issue in certain
regions of England that had been shown to have relatively high levels
of the gas.

Also in 1992 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated
that the number of deaths from Rn in the US would be between 7,000 and
30,000.

Compared with around 23,000 fatalities from drink driving, 4,400 from
fires and 1,000 from aeroplane crashes.

Such a figure was certainly a cause for concern.

By 1993 a list had been compiled of the highest concentrations of Rn
in the UK. Areas where 1 percent or more of the houses exceed the
action level of 200Bqm-3 where classified as 'affected areas'.

This list included Cornwall, Devon and some regions of Scotland and
Northern Ireland.

In 1996 the NRPB had measured radon levels in 250,000 home in England,
advising that parts of Avon, Dorset, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and
Shropshire should adopt affected area status. Of the 100,000 homes
most at risk, 20,000 were found in areas not known to be affected in
1992.

If you think that you may be at risk from Rn in your home please
contact the NRPB as soon as possible.

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