Knowing the Radon facts could save your life.
- Element Name: Radon
- Element Symbol: Rn
- Atomic Number: 86
- Element Group: Group 18 (Noble Gas)
- Period: Period 6
- Atomic Mass: 222
- Appearance: Colorless Gas
Radon Facts: Radon is a colorless, odorless, and flavorless gas at ordinary temperature and pressure. It’s radioactive and decays into other radioactive and toxic elements. Radon occurs in nature as the decay product of uranium, radium, thorium, and other radioactive elements. There are 33 known isotopes of radon. Rn-226 is the most common of these. It is an alpha emitter with a half-life of 1601 years. None of the isotopes of radon are stable.
Radon is present in the Earth’s crust at an abundance of 4 x10-13 milligrams per kilogram. It is always present outdoors and in drinking water from natural sources, but at a low level in open areas. It’s mainly a problem in enclosed spaces, such as indoors or in a mine.
The Danger of Radon
The US EPA estimates the average indoor radon concentration is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Nationally, it’s estimated approximately 1 in 15 homes in the US has high radon, which is 4.0 pCi/L or higher. In Utah, 1 in 3 homes have high levels of radon. High radon levels have been found in every state of the United States.
Radon comes from the soil, water, and water supply. Some building materials also release radon, such as concrete, granite countertops, and wall boards. It’s a myth that only older homes or ones of a certain design are susceptible to high radon levels, as the concentration depends on many factors. Because it is heavy, the gas does tend to accumulate in low-lying areas. Radon test kits can detect high levels of radon, which can generally be mitigated fairly easily and inexpensively once the threat is known.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall (after smoking) and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Some studies link radon exposure to childhood leukemia. The element emits alpha particles, which are not able to penetrate skin, but can react with cells when the element is inhaled. Because it is monatomic, radon is able to penetrate most materials and disperses readily from its source.
Some studies indicate children are at higher risk from radon exposure than adults. The most probable reason is that children’s cell divide more often than those of adult, so genetic damage is more likely and has greater consequences. Partly, cells divide more rapidly because children have a higher metabolic rate, but it’s also because they are growing.
Radon Facts: it’s Elemental
The element radon has gone by other names. It was one of the first radioactive elements that was discovered. Fredrich E. Dorn described radon gas in 1900. He called it “radium emanation” because the gas came from the radium sample he was studying. William Ramsay and Robert Gray first isolated radon in 1908. They named the element niton. In 1923, the name changed to radon, after radium, one of its sources and the element involved in its discovery.
Radon is a noble gas, which means it has a stable outer electron shell. For this reason, radon does not readily form chemical compounds. The element is considered chemical inert and monatomic. However, it has been known to react with fluorine to form a fluoride. Radon clathrates are also known, and it is one of the densest gases and is the heaviest. It’s also 9 times heavier than air.
Radon Facts: Mitigation
If you are unsure if you have radon in your home, order a test kit today to find out if you have radon. Act now, and save your family from the effects of radon.