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Oh no, not Radon!

  1. Feb 4, 2010 #1
    I have noticed that whenever the topic of radon comes up there are two probable reactions:
    1. IQ quenching panic. Generally exhibited by members of the public at large.
    2. Discussion quenching disgust. Most commonly displayed by devotees of the hard sciences. (Sometimes accompanied by hand-waving)

    I would like to posit the existence of a third state: enlightening explanation. Specifically, I am in search of a derivation of the number of years required for a cumulative exposure of x milliSieverts of radiation in the presence of y picoCuries/liter of alpha radiation from radon. My own calculations have led me to conclude that for x = 100 it would take over 6,000 years for lungs of 2kg mass and 5 liter volume to reach this level given a Q of 20 and N of 0.12 (wikipedia) in the presence of 2 pCI/liter assumedly generated purely by alpha particles with an energy of 6.4MeV (highest decay energy for Radon products I could find). Alarmingly, or perhaps annoyingly, this disagrees hugely with data from the NCRP indicating an annual effective dose in the neighborhood of 1.7mSv for 1 pCi/liter, which would get you to 100mSV in only 29 years for a 2pCi/liter situation. If anyone (preferably not within groups 1 or 2 above) can shed some light on this disagreement, I would be most appreciative.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2010 #2


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    The estimate of 100mSV in 29 years sounds in the right ballpark to me. Natural background is on the order of 2 to 7 mSv/year, and I believe radon is of the same order of magnitude in houses that have a lot of radon.

    Note that a wide variety of observations shows that LNT is totally wrong when applied to animal life at doses of less than about 10 mSv per *day*. People with radon in their basements are probably harvesting a slight health benefit, due to radiation hormesis. The benefit would be significant at the population level, but not worth worrying about at the individual level.
  4. Feb 5, 2010 #3
    For centuries people have gone to spas to "take the waters" for their health & people are quite clear that it works whatever worries the authorities want to stir up. Such water comes from springs deep under the Earth & thus has a high concentration of radon & indeed uranium. This could not be so if the LNT theory were correct & highly unlikely to be true if there weren't a significant positive hormetic effect.

    This is about "the most radioactive place on Earth" - a German spa http://www.radscihealth.org/RSH/docs/Radon/ABCNEWScom_RadIsKing.html
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  5. Feb 5, 2010 #4
    Wow I could not agree more.

    Thomas D Luckey's book on Radiation Hormesis and a new publication by Charles Sanders, Radiation Hormesis and the Linear-No-Threshold Assumption are ignored by those who urge and scare people into spending loads of money to reduce the radiation in their basement. Not to mention the fact that we spend millions maybe billions to bury radiation that is emitting close to 300 times less what people in a couple of villages in Iran and China live in without an increase but a slight decrease in cancer rates.
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