Radon Physics Paper

Submitted By kturner12
Words: 1232
Pages: 5

Radon: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You
Richard Turner
Block 2

Radon is a commonly known element for its harmful effects on the body but most people do not know how the element radon is formed and how it becomes harmful to humans. Radon’s radioactive properties are a huge danger to the human population. The knowledge of what Radon does to the human body has increased enormously in the past 70 years. The threat of such a deadly substance is known by many people, but there is also a large number of people that are unaware of the damage that Radon can do to the body.
Radon was first discovered in 1900, by a German chemist named Friedrich Ernst Dorn. The chemist was studying the decay chain of Radium when he came across the new element now known as Radon. Dorn originally named the element Niton, but in 1923 the name was officially changed to Radon. When Radon is at room temperature it is a colorless, odorless, and radioactive gas. (The Element Radon) The radioactive gas is found everywhere on earth but in mostly small amounts. Radon is part of a long chain of radioactive transformations that begins with uranium. In the long chain of decaying elements, Radon is the seventh to appear, with a total of 12. The half-life of the element Radon is 3.8 days. The half life tells how long it takes for half of the atoms in the element to decay. When Radon decays it exits the nucleus and forms an energized particle, also called an Alpha Particle. As the particle is formed, radiation is given off. Once the particle is created it begins the transformation to the next element and the process will go on and on until it reaches the final element of the chain of decay. (Physics and Astronomy)
Radon poses a large risk to the human population because it emits radiation. The biggest threat that Radon has is in peoples houses. The radioactive gas can enter into the house in several spots. Examples of ways the gas enters through the house are cracks and small openings in the foundation, unsealed sump pumps, concrete cold joints, and basement floor drains. Some people are under the impression that if they do not have a basement in there house that they shouldn’t have to worry about Radon. Any building that has full contact with the ground can have higher levels of Radon. Basements on average still hold the highest concentration of Radon than any other room of a house. Homes naturally have a lower air pressure than the soil beneath it. This forms a type of vacuum that makes it easier for Radon to get into small cracks of the house. Radon can also enter a house through groundwater. If a house is connected to a well for its water supply then it runs the risk of being contaminated with Radon that has dissolved into the water. The Radon will escape into the air once there is any water being used in the house. (Asthma, Indoor Air, and Radon Coalition) When people get there house checked for high levels of Radon gas there is many steps they must take to find if they are living in unsafe conditions. When testing for Radon gas in a house it is measured in pCi/L or picocuries per liter. The Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended that any homes with Radon levels over 4 pCi/L need to be assessed too. EPA also recommends that action be taken on your home if Radon levels are 2 pCi/L or more. They say this because any amount of Radon can be harmful but Radon levels below 2 pCi/L will put homes at a lower risk. EPA recommends testing every 2 years if recent tests came close to 4 pCi/L. The average Radon concentration in the United States is 1.3 pCi/L. (EPA) Iowa has the highest percentage of homes above the EPA recommended level of action at 4 pCi/L. 5 out of every 7 homes in Iowa have Radon levels above 4 pCi/L. Iowa’s average Radon level is 8 pCi/L. (Asthma, Indoor Air, and Radon Coalition)
Once tested and if Radon levels come out at 4 pCi/L or more, then there is steps and other alternatives to reducing the concentration of Radon in…