Asked in Radon
Why is radon so dangerous?
January 19, 2011 9:35PM
Answerbecause it kills people. Radon (named after radium) was discovered in 1900 by Friedrich Ernst Dorn, who called it radium emanation. In 1908 William Ramsay and Robert Whytlaw-Gray, named it niton (Latin nitens meaning "shining"; symbol Nt) and isolated it, determined its density, and determined that it was the heaviest known gas. It has been called "radon" since 1923. The first major studies of the health concern occurred in the context of uranium mining, first in the Joachimsthal region of Bohemia and then in the Southwestern United States during the early Cold War. Because radon is a product of uranium, uranium mines have high concentrations of radon and its highly radioactive daughter products. Many Native Americans, Mormons, and other miners in the Four Corners region contracted lung cancer and other pathologies as a result of high levels of exposure to radon gas while mining uranium for the Atomic Energy Commission in the mid-1950s. Safety standards instituted required expensive ventilation and as such were not widely implemented or policed. The danger of radon exposure in dwellings was discovered in 1984 with the case of Stanley Watras, an employee at the Limerick nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Watras set off the radiation alarms on his way into work for two weeks straight while authorities searched for the source of the contamination. They were shocked to find that the source was astonishingly high levels of radon, around 100,000 Bq/m3 (2,700 pCi/L), in his house's basement and it was not related to the nuclear plant. The risks associated with living in his house were estimated to be equivalent to smoking 135 packs of cigarettes every day. Following this event, which was highly publicized, national radon safety standards were set, and radon detection and ventilation became a standard homeowner concern. Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, and radon-induced lung cancer is thought to be the 6th leading cause of cancer death overall.
radon is an element in the periodic table also.