Radon Gas - Radium 226

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Hi, quick question.


This website...

http://www.oasisllc.com/abgx/radioactivity.htm

says "Radon, the gas produced by the decay of radium-226, also emits alpha particles"

Does this mean that it is actually radium 226 which is the dangerous gas which killed the silver miners and radon is just the product of the decay - kind of like the smoke from a gun.

If you breathed in Radon gas what would happen? Does radon gas continue to decay and emit alpha particles or is it just the radium 226 that decays and radon is stable?

Hope that makes sense,

Thanks
 

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  • #2
Drakkith
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Radon is a decay product of Radium. Radon itself has a half life of 3.8 days, meaning that it continually decays at all times by emitting an alpha particle. Radon gas is definitely radioactive. I can't comment on the health impact other than to say that when it comes to radiation, most of the science and medical studies show that a lower amount is better. My suggestion is don't breathe it in if you can help it.
 
  • #3
Borek
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Radium is a metal, not a gas. Radon is a gas. Both radium-226 and radon-222 decay by emitting alpha particles.
 
  • #4
The ultimate source of radon is U238, the isotope of uranium with an atomic mass of 238. Radon is supposedly the number two cause of lung cancer, and is given off by soils that usually have a high amount of granite as a parent material. There has been some overly large concern about granite counter tops, but they really aren't much of a culprit when it comes to radon. The gas itself is a noble gas, so it will not react readily with anything, but that does not mean it can readily escape the crystalline structure of granite. Its rate of diffusion out of a crystal containing uranium is going to be significantly less than its half life. The only way I can see it building up in a house is to have granitic based soil exposed to the underside of your house along with poor air circulation. I see that the site that the OP listed is one that sells radiation detectors. Remember that their goal is to sell detectors, so they will in all odds overstate the dangers of radon. Though there are some areas that will have higher amounts of radon, most won't. Radon is probably a minor concern in the midwest states, and possibly the northeast. If you live in the south then cooling is more of a concern than heating and houses are usually well ventilated underneath. You could probably call your state geological survey and ask them about the dangers of radon in your area. All it takes to get rid of radon is a little bit of ventilation. And don't listen to those anti granite counter top claims. Yes, there will be some natural radiation in granite counter tops. But it is very low, and the radon that is part of the U238 decay chain is pretty much locked in the granite. It takes something with a lot of surface area, like soil, to allow the radon to escape.
 
  • #5
Astronuc
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Hi, quick question.

If you breathed in Radon gas what would happen? Does radon gas continue to decay and emit alpha particles or is it just the radium 226 that decays and radon is stable?
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuclear/radser.html#c3

Note the sequence from Ra-226 to Rn-222, then to Po-218.

Po-218 can emit alpha and transmute to Pb-208, or it can emit beta and transmute to At-218.

At-218 can decay by alpha to Bi-214 or by beta to Rn-218. Rn-218 would then decay by alpha to Po-214. There are additional decays in the series.

The concern with inhalation of Rn (and other radionuclides) is that it will irradiate the lungs and surrounding tissue by virtue of successive decays. In addition, metals like Po and Pb will migrate from the lungs to other areas of the body where they will affect tissue chemically as well as radiologically.

Radon is found in parts of the Appalacian mountain chain and in the west where there are deposits of uranium.
 
  • #6
This EPA link has a radon zone map:
http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html" [Broken]

Radon is not only a problem in areas where they mine uranium. There are many rocks that have uranium in them in levels much lower than economically mine-able amounts. Its a fairly widely spread element which is one reason that it is used in radiometric dating so often, and in various different ways.

Here is a small image, but I would suggest going to the site and clicking on the image to get a clearer view:[URL]http://www.epa.gov/radon/images/zonemap_thumbnail.jpg[/URL]
 
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