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Radon Gas Exposure in Your Environment

Places Where Radon Gas Exposure is Found?

Artists Pictorial Rendering of Radon 222 Atomic Structure

Artists Pictorial Rendering of Radon 222 Atomic Structure

If you reside in North America ( United States or Canada),  you should be aware that Radon Gas Exposure is very common and found in the environment of all national regions.  Radon is a noble gas that is formed by the decay of Uranium, a naturally occurring element found in the soil and in water.  Although it is found in water, Radon will most likely affect humans in its gaseous  form in the air we breathe. Only two gaseous forms are found in elevated concentrations in our  human environment.  These are  Radon-222, and Radon-220:Radon-220 is seen to be most prevalent in our human environments.

Radon is colorless and  odorless, not subject to detection by our human senses.  It is the heaviest known gas, and is about nine times heavier than Air (approx. 20% oxygen & 80%  nitrogen).  It is only one atom, instead of two like O2 (oxygen) and N2 (Nitrogen , and is able to go through common barriers such as clothing, paper, low-density plastic, wood siding, and most insulation products. It is also able to penetrate mortar, concrete blocks and sheet rock which is commonly used in the building construction industry.

How does Radon Gas Exposure Occur and get into our environment?

Radon is not manufactured commercially.  Radon Gas Exposure occurs because Radon Gas is produced from the radioactive decay of Uranium found in rocks, rocky formations and most soil.  It is commonly found in ground water, building materials, or the ground itself.  Usually the most severe inhalation problems occur in Radon rich gaseous environments.  It can be found in basement areas, caves, mines, enclosed spaces adjacent to closed areas exposed to the earth, or typically in public baths and spas.

What is the level of  Radon Gas Exposure deemed to be potentially harmful to humans, and its concentration?

The U.S. EPA and U.S. Public Heath Service, have given the estimate that at least 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year are caused by  Radon gas exposure. It has become the second leading cause of lung cancer in the USA.  About one-third of homes in the USA  exhibit radon levels over 4pCi/L (4 picocuries/liter).  This is amount  is called the Radon gas exposure “Action or Reference level” of concern to inhabitants and home owners.

How can you make Accurate Measurements of  Radon Gas Exposure Levels in your home and other structures?

In general, electronic Radon gas detectors work by detecting particles that are being thrown off by the natural decay of Radon gas in your environment and in close proximity to the measuring detector. These particles are called “Alpha particles” and are counted as the result of being detected by a photo diode in the sensor which can detect the presence of Alpha particles. The electronics in the device measures the alpha particle activity, and filters out the extraneous “noise” in the environment of the sensor.

If the detector is properly designed it will hold its calibration over a long period of time. Electronic measurement devices are calibrated  when they are manufactured. Each detector is compared to a “standard” and is adjusted to measure Radon levels within the  accepted tolerance of the device in order to insure accurate measurements. Re-calibration is suggested by the manufacturer, and the longer that period of the time is the better, since re-calibration will usually involve an ongoing expense.

The electronic Radon detector has an advantage of presenting an accurate readout value(s) over a period of time. It can be re-used and placed in all rooms of the home or business and give an accurate picture of radon levels throughout the year. Variation of radon levels are to be expected, due to climatic conditions and local variations in temperature, dust, airflow and moisture levels.  Evaluation of radon levels should be averaged over many measurements and throughout the year.

The lowest cost test for Radon gas exposure in the home can be performed by a single-use test device. These devices need to be in place for some time in order to obtain a useful radon average reading. Unfortunately they are useful only in one certain area of your home, such as a particular room or basement, and they need to be physically mailed to a laboratory for analysis of the radon levels that they measured. They are a “one-time” measurement solution, and are not costly, ($25 or less) but to measure radon gas exposure in an entire building accurately, it might mean obtaining multiple detector strips and placing them throughout your home or office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi! I love your site. This was a very useful post. I have heard of the Radon danger but it is great to be reminded. Especially since the numbers or exposure has gone up so much.

    I just moved to a new apartment . It is kind of old too. I better check to see if their is an issue. Is this issue with Radon found in a certain part of the nation more than others?

    • Hi Vertical Veloxity-

      Thanks for your review and comments.

      Radon can be found in almost all states in the USA. It is present in rocks, and soil especially those states with slate or granite content. Most of the states that have granite ranges, such as the Rocky and Appalachian mountains tend to have higher levels. But Iowa, a very non mountainous state has some of the highest levels. So I guess, in summary, it is very hard to tell, and testing is probably the only way to make an accurate determination.

      Thanks, Connie

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