Ten Astonishing Facts About Radium

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1. Radium is an Alkaline earth metal.
• Radium is derived from the Latin word ‘radius’ meaning ray (after the rays emitted by it.
• One of the six chemical elements found under the second column of the periodic table of elements together with beryllium, magnesium, calcium, strontium and barium.
• All alkaline earth metal has oxidation number of +2 making it extremely reactive.
• This is why radium elements are not found in their elemental form in nature.

2. Radium was discovered in Paris.
• It was discovered in 1898 by Pierre and Marie Curie wherein the latter eventually died of overexposure to radiation.
• Complex mineral called pitchblende (known by the name of uraninite formed through oxidation of the element uranium) was the sample used in the discovery of radium. Pitchblende is made up of thirty different elements where curie performs different methods of chemical analysis to isolate and separate each kind of elements present in pitchblende.

3. Radium is the heaviest among alkaline earth metal.
• Radium appears silvery and brilliant white in its purest form.
• Atomic number of eighty eight, density of 5.5 g cm–3, melting point at seven hundred degrees celsius and boiling at 1737 degrees celsius.

4. Radium decomposes in water.
• It reacts readily with water (reaction is quicker compared to other alkaline earth metal) that produces radium hydroxide as well as hydrogen gas.
• Compared to barium, radium’s reaction with water is less unstable.
• It easily tarnishes and blackens due to nitride formation when exposed to air (from reaction with nitrogen).
• It produces a red colored fire when exposed to flame.

5. Radium is a radioactive element.
• It is a million time as radioactive as Uranium (a very heavy metal sometimes used as a source of concentrated energy).
• Radium is present in all uranium minerals.
• This metal and its compounds glow in the dark due to emission of light rays.
• Radioactivity of radium (and other substances) is measured in Becquerel.

6. Exposure to radium can cause cancer.
• It is highly radioactive hence carcinogenic.
• It was discovered back in 1930s that exposure of workers to paints (luminescent paints) could cause serious illness such as bone cancer, sores and anemia that eventually banned the use of radium.
• For employees’ welfare, formulation of occupational disease labor law commences especially to work-related exposure to harmful and toxic substances.
• Ironically, radium is use in cancer treatment using its isotopes ionizing radiation taking effect on biological level in radiotherapy.

7. Radium gas is called radon.
• It is part of a decay chain from radon to polonium and lead.
• The gas is colorless and odorless noble gas and is considered a health hazard as showed in studies linking breathing in high concentration of contaminated atmospheric gas with radon to incidence of lung cancer.

8. Radium has relatively short half-life.
• The time reached by the concentration of radium to decrease by half is one thousand six hundred years then decays into radon gas this is why there is no large deposits of radium
• Moreover, radium is the first radioactive element made synthetically. Industrial radium extraction was first introduced in the twentieth century.

9. The body treats radium in a way it does to calcium.
• The radioactive property of radium degrades marrow and causes mutation of bone cells.
• It gets deposited in the bones, teeth and marrow.

10. Canada and Congo are richest in radium.
• Ores in the Congo and the area of Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake of northwestern Canada is the spot for uranium mining.
• In addition to top radium producing countries are Belgium, Slovakia and United Kingdom.

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