Facts about Radon

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The biggest enemy of today’s world is cancer. 3 in 5 people lose their lives to cancer every day, following a grave battle that almost always renders all efforts futile.

The right mix of technology, chemistry, physics and biology however has helped reduce the fatality of this disease, by simply combining techniques that have various therapeutic effects on the body.
The use of radon in proper doses, is one such therapeutic technique used to treat cancers. This radioactive decay product of radium is artificially produced owing to its salutary effects on the tumor affected body.
Here are a few facts about Radon.

1) Radon’s properties
Element Radon with an atomic number 86 and symbol Rn, is a radioactive gas that is colorless, tasteless and odorless. It has a melting point of -96F and -79F. It is also one of the densest and heaviest noble gas.

2) Discovery of Radon
Radon was initially discovered by English physicist Ernest Rutherford in 1899 when he identified radon’s alpha radiation. It was further reported by Pierre and Marie Curie about a glowing gas that was given off by radium. Radon’s discovery was finally credited to a German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn who called it radium emanation in the year 1900.

3) Radon is a single atom gas

Radon does not have two atoms like oxygen (O2) and hence it can penetrate very easily through many materials like paints, building materials, concrete blocks, wooden paneling and insulations. It is soluble in water and organic solvents. It can react with highly electronegative materials to form stable compounds.

4) Radon’s isotopes

Radon has thirty-six unstable isotopes. Four isotopes have a half-life for more than an hour and the longest one lasts for 3.8 days. Radon-222 is most abundant in nature.Radon-222 released in the atmosphere leads to the formation of radioisotopes of heavy metals like polonium, bismuth and lead, which are essentially decay products. These immediately get attracted to dust particles and are thus inhaled.

5) Occurrence of Radon.

A naturally occurring radioactive gas, its occurrence is normally due to the natural breakdown of uranium’s radioactive decay. It can be found in soil and igneous rock. It is also found in some hot springs and spring waters.

6) How do we measure the presence of Radon?
Unit of measurement for radon gas is Becquerel per cubic meter. Depending on the indoor or outdoor atmosphere, Radon’s abundance is said to be between 10 to 100 Bq per cubic meter.

7) Presence of Radon in different environments
Concentrations of radon is significantly low in the oceans and is high as 2000 becquerel per cubic meter.

8) Presence of radon in workplace
People who work in confined areas like mines and underground buildings, are exposed to high levels of radon. Tunnels, power stations, caves and spas are also rich in radon. Uranium miners have maximum exposure to radon and its decay products.

9) Over exposure to Radon inhalation causes cancer
Scientists have found a correlation between exposure to radon and lung cancer. Next to smoking, radon over exposure is the most frequent cause of lung cancer. In US alone, death due to lung cancer is estimated to be around 21,000 per year.

10) Radon helps in tracking air masses and in predicting earthquakes.

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