Sunday, August 25, 2019

What is Radon Gas and How It Can Adversely Affect Your Health

What Is Radon Gas?

An article found in Wikipedia explains what radon is in the following way:
Radon is an element. It is radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas. It occurs naturally in very small quantities as an intermediate step in the normal radioactive decay chains through which thorium and uranium slowly decay into lead and various other short-lived radioactive elements. Radon itself is the immediate decay product of radium. It's most stable isotope, 222 Rn, has a half life of only 3.8 days, making radon one of the rarest elements since it decays so quickly. However, since thorium and uranium are two of the most common radioactive elements on Earth. and they have three isotopes with half-lives of several billions of years, radon will be present on Earth long into the future as it is continually being generated even though it has a very short half-life.

Health Risks From Radon Gas

As we can see from the information above RADON GAS is colorless, tasteless and odorless. However it is radioactive and can harmful to your health at certain concentrations, especially if you are breathing it over a long period of time. This can especially be the gas if radon gas seeps into your basement from the ground below and increases in concentration because of lack of ventilation. The gas will increase in concentration if it enters any confined space.

Radon gas breaks down or decays to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs decay continues, creating radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy. This energy is absorbed by your lung tissue damaging your lung cells. When your lung cells are damaged they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.

Health Risks From Radon Gas Combined With Tobacco Use

Exposure to radon gas and tobacco use can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer. If you are a life-time smoker your chances of getting lung cancer is 1 to 10. If you add long term term exposure to RADON at high levels of concentration the risk increases to 1 to 3.

If you are a smoker who is “in denial” about the seriousness of your addiction (or even the reality of it), and try not to think about the fact that, if you are currently smoking a couple of full packs of cigarettes per day - or just a couple of cigarettes per day - please understand! YOU need to quit as soon as possible!  Ignoring your problem could be a fatal mistake!

Roughly 440,000 Americans die annually due to smoking related diseases — (this doesn’t include those who die from fires and other smoking-related problems)

Studies have shown exposure to radon gas over long periods of time is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and Canada behind cigarette smoking. In fact is is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers in the United States.

According to Health Canada sets an acceptable annual rate of 200 becquerels per cubic meter (200 Bg/m3) while in the United States the rate is 150 and the World Health organization has proposed recommended levels of 100. The term becquerels describes how many radioactive radon particles are decaying every second per cubic meter of air.

The concentration of radon can differ widely from place to place. In the open air , it ranges from 1 to 100 Bg/m3 even less above the ocean (0.1 Bg/m3). In caves or aerated mines, or ill-aerated houses,  it can be 20-4000 Bg/m3.

According to an article in Wikipedia the dangers of radon has long been known.
"The danger of high exposure to radon in mines, where exposures can reach 1,000,000 Bq/m3, has long been known. In 1530, Paracelsus described a wasting disease of miners, the mala metallorum, and Georg Agricola recommended ventilation in mines to avoid this mountain sickness (Bergsucht).In 1879, this condition was identified as lung cancer by Harting and Hesse in their investigation of miners from Schneeberg, Germany. The first major studies with radon and health occurred in the context of uranium mining in the Joachimsthal region of Bohemia. In the US, studies and mitigation only followed decades of health effects on uranium miners of the Southwestern United States employed during the early Cold War; standards were not implemented until 1971,"

The same article explains how the gas was first case of indoor radon gas concentrations were discovered.
"The presence of radon in indoor air was documented as early as 1950. Beginning in the 1970s research was initiated to address sources of indoor radon, determinants of concentration, health effects, and mitigation approaches. In the United States, the problem of indoor radon received widespread publicity and intensified investigation after a widely publicized incident in 1984. During routine monitoring at a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant, a worker, Stanley Watras,  was found to be contaminated with radioactivity. A high concentration of radon in his home was subsequently identified as responsible."

About 100,000 Bq/m3 (2.7 nCi/L) was measured in Stanley Watras's basement

Other Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Naturally Occurring Radon and How It Enters Your Home

According to an article in Wikipedia Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of radium-226, which is found in uranium ores, phosphate rock, shales, igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite, gneiss, and schist, and to a lesser degree, in common rocks such as limestoneEvery square mile of surface soil, to a depth of 6 inches, contains approximately 1 gram of radium, which releases radon in small amounts to the atmosphere. On a global scale, it is estimated that 2,400 million curies (90 EBq) of radon are released from soil annually.

Radon gas is extremely prevalent in the Canadian prairies such as southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is also a health risk for many homes in the United States particularly in the states of Iowa and Pennsylvania. Many hardware stores provide free radon detection kits many places in the United States.

Radon gas seeps into homes through cracks in walls, floors and foundations and through floor drains and sumps. Houses in cold climates are at particular risk since windows and doors are kept closed for over half the year and there’s often little air circulation, which creates a vacuum effect.

 The radon gas moves through the soil and enters through a point of least resistance such as a crack in the foundation or underneath your furnace. If the gas enters a confined space it will accumulate and increase in concentration. It can also enter your home through your basement windows.

Typical domestic radon gas exposures are of approximately 100 Bq/m3 (2.7 pCi/L) indoors. Some level of radon will be found in all buildings. Radon mostly enters a building directly from the soil through the lowest level in the building that is in contact with the ground. High levels of radon in the water supply can also increase indoor radon air levels. Typical entry points of radon into buildings are cracks in solid foundations, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls, and the water supply.Radon concentrations in the same location may differ by a factor of two over a period of 1 hour. Also, the concentration in one room of a building may be significantly different from the concentration in an adjoining room. The soil characteristics of the dwellings are the most important source of radon for the ground floor and higher concentration of indoor radon observed on lower floors. Most of the high radon concentrations have been reported from places near fault zones; hence the existence of a relation between the exhalation rate from faults and indoor radon concentrations is obvious.
The distribution of radon concentrations will generally differ from room to room, and the readings are averaged according to regulatory protocols. Indoor radon concentration is usually assumed to follow a lognormal distribution on a given territory. Thus, the geometric mean is generally used for estimating the "average" radon concentration in an area.

Detection of Radon Gas In Your Home

According to an article published in Wikipedia testing for radon gas is simple and there are a number test kits available commercially.
radon detector
A digital radon detector

A radon test kit
"In some countries these tests are methodically done in areas of known systematic hazards. Radon detection devices are commercially available. Digital radon detectors provide ongoing measurements giving both daily, weekly, short-term and long-term average readouts via a digital display. Short-term radon test devices used for initial screening purposes are inexpensive, in some cases free. There are important protocols for taking short-term radon tests and it is imperative that they be strictly followed. The kit includes a collector that the user hangs in the lowest habitable floor of the house for 2 to 7 days. The user then sends the collector to a laboratory for analysis. Long term kits, taking collections for up to one year or more, are also available. An open-land test kit can test radon emissions from the land before construction begins Radon concentrations can vary daily, and accurate radon exposure estimates require long-term average radon measurements in the spaces where an individual spends a significant amount of time.
Radon levels fluctuate naturally, due to factors like transient weather conditions, so an initial test might not be an accurate assessment of a home's average radon level. Radon levels are at a maximum during the coolest part of the day when pressure differentials are greatest. Therefore, a high result (over 4 pCi/L) justifies repeating the test before undertaking more expensive abatement projects. Measurements between 4 and 10 pCi/L warrant a long term radon test. Measurements over 10 pCi/L warrant only another short term test so that abatement measures are not unduly delayed. Purchasers of real estate are advised to delay or decline a purchase if the seller has not successfully abated radon to 4 pCi/L or less.[6]
Because the half-life of radon is only 3.8 days, removing or isolating the source will greatly reduce the hazard within a few weeks. Another method of reducing radon levels is to modify the building's ventilation. Generally, the indoor radon concentrations increase as ventilation rates decrease.In a well ventilated place, the radon concentration tends to align with outdoor values (typically 10 Bq/m3, ranging from 1 to 100 Bq/m3)."

Protecting Your Home From Radon Gas

The four principal ways of reducing the amount of radon accumulating in a house are:
  • Sub-slab depressurization (soil suction) by increasing under-floor ventilation;
  • Improving the ventilation of the house and avoiding the transport of radon from the basement into living rooms;
  • Installing a radon sump system in the basement;
  • Installing a positive pressurization or positive supply ventilation system.
  • installing a radon mitigation fan
According to the EPA the method to reduce radon "...primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside", which is also called sub-slab depressurization, active soil depressurization, or soil suction. Generally indoor radon can be mitigated by sub-slab depressurization and exhausting such radon-laden air to the outdoors, away from windows and other building openings. "EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the home and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted" and "EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently".

Positive-pressure ventilation systems can be combined with a heat exchanger to recover energy in the process of exchanging air with the outside, and simply exhausting basement air to the outside is not necessarily a viable solution as this can actually draw radon gas into a dwelling. Homes built on a crawl space may benefit from a radon collector installed under a "radon barrier" (a sheet of plastic that covers the crawl space). For crawlspaces, the EPA states "An effective method to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes involves covering the earth floor with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors. This form of soil suction is called submembrane suction, and when properly applied is the most effective way to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes."

You could also install a radon mitigation fan, Installing a radon fan will keep the radon gas from rising through the home's foundation and entering the building envelope. 
This involves a method known as sub-slab depressurization: a pipe is installed through the foundation floor and is piped to the outside with a small exhaust fan, which draws the radon from under the house and pushes it back outside, before it can enter your home.

Radon Potential In Alberta

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Best Regards

1 comment:

  1. what is radon gas and how does it affect your health? Well it can kill you


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