Periodic Table -> Radon


Radon Details

Radon Symbol: Rn

Radon Atomic Number: 86

Radon Atomic Weight: (222)

What is Radon?

Radon (atomic number 86, symbol Rn) is a gas and chemical element that is harmful for human health. In the U.S. alone, it is the main cause for over 20 thousand lung cancer deaths annually. The gas was discovered in 1898 by Friedrich Ernst Dorn. It was first isolated in 1910 by the English chemist Robert Whytlaw-Gray and the Scottish chemist William Ramsay.

Properties and Isotopes
It is an odorless and colorless noble gas that forms as a result of the decay of uranium in water, rock, and soil. It can enter premises and residential units through cracks in the foundations, walls, and floors. Radon is a tasteless radioactive gas at room temperature. The half life of radon-222, which is the most stable isotope, is less than 4 days. Isotopes such as Rn-224, Rn-210, and Rn-211 have a short half life of more than 1 hour. There are 7 known isotopes and 0 oxidation states. Radon is soluble in gases and has low electronegativity. It has a cubic crystal structure and is the densest of all gases.

Medical Treatment and Other Applications
Radon is used for cancer treatment in some hospitals and facilities in the form of radon spas, inhalation therapy, drinking therapy, and radioactive water baths. Inhalation therapy is offered in the U.S., Romania, Poland, and Austria while radioactive baths are found in the Czech Republic. Treatments are also offered in mines and curative tunnels, including inhalation, steam, and other therapies. In many facilities, the gas is also used as a pain reliever, but scientists consider these therapies controversial. It is usually administered through transcutaneous resorption and inhalation. Most of the gas inhaled is subsequently discharged while the remaining amount stays in the body. These therapies are not approved in many counties primarily because consensus cannot be reached on the amount of carbon that is considered safe. The acceptable levels vary from one country to another, and one method of reporting is pico curies per liter. In addition to medical treatment, radon is also used in geologic and hydrologic research. It has been hypothesized that the gas can be used to predict earthquakes. It is also useful in identifying geological faults.

Health Risks and Effects on the Environment
The gas and isotopes such as radon-22 are considered health hazards because of their carcinogenic properties. Radon levels are higher in residential homes and premises that are tightly sealed and insulated. There are high concentrations in soils that contain elements such as radium, thorium, and uranium. The concentration is also higher in underground premises, first floors, and basements. According to some researchers, long-term exposure increases the risk for leukemia, but further research is necessary to confirm the findings. There are no signs or symptoms which indicate that radon poisoning has occurred, making it difficult to detect and treat. However, exposure increases the risk for lung cancer, with symptoms such as frequent lung infections, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing up blood being red flags.

Radon is present in groundwater, wells, and air but higher concentrations are found in indoor locations. The main ways to reduce indoor concentrations include installing efficient ventilation systems, radon sump systems, as well as sub-slab depressurization. There are kits that allow homeowners to measure radon levels at home. They can be found in many hardware stores and are inexpensive. Different methods are used in public facilities, including radon mitigation strategies. When it comes to environmental pollution, most compounds are released in the atmosphere as a result of production and other human activities.

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