It is important to understand the symptoms of radon gas poisoning in order to ensure prevent its exposure. The following HealthHearty article provides information about the various symptoms and ways to prevent exposure to this gas.
Radon is a chemical element found abundantly in nature. The gas is odorless, tasteless, colorless, that occurs naturally as the decay by-product of radium. It is thus, well-known for its radioactive properties. Its chemical symbol is ‘Rn’ and its atomic number is 86. Exposure to this gas is extremely dangerous, as it has been implicated as a causative factor in cancer.
According to Dr. Maria Neira of World Health Organization (WHO), “Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes. It is the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking in many countries.” In the United States, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer, first being smoking. Before we get down to the symptoms of this poisoning, it is important to understand from where it comes and how it affects us.
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium that is present in rock, water, and soil. It has a half life of 3.8 days, during which it breaks down into Polonium and then decays into Lead, both of which are toxic elements. As it is a gas, it spreads more easily through air that we breathe in. Radon gas can seep into homes through cracks in concrete, soil, mortar, and stones that the houses are built on, especially concrete block walls which are porous.
As one cannot see or smell radon gas, it is difficult to trace it. It is also difficult to even know if one is getting exposed to it thereby, making it difficult to recognize the signs of poisoning. However, the fact remains that unlike other poisonous gases, its symptoms cannot be clearly defined, as there are no early discernible symptoms.
As radon is radioactive in nature, it produces polonium-218 and polonium-214 after decay, which is also known as radon progeny. Both polonium; 214 and 218, decay themselves and emit alpha particles. Although, the particles do not get absorbed by human skin due to its thickness, it can enter bronchial and lung tissue while breathing. These particles may cause extensive damage to the lungs, resulting in lung cancer.
In open air, radon gas does not pose a major threat, but in closed and confined spaces like buildings or rooms, the risk increases manifolds. Factors like the location of the building, and the duration of exposure plays a vital role in the development of lung cancer. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average person receives a higher dose of radiation from the radon levels in their home, than from combined exposure to all other radiation sources, natural or man-made.
Radon Act 51, passed by the US Congress has set the natural outdoor level of radon gas at 0.4 pCi/L. Testing is the only way to check the level of radon at your home. Radon testing should be done by professionals qualified to test and recommend ways to reduce its concentration. Some of the preventive measures generally recommended include; cross ventilating and renovating basements wall, sealing all , fissures, cracks, and openings in pipes, drains, floors, and walls.
Poisoning is an important environmental issue that environmentalists all over the world are trying to deal with. Hence, radon gas poisoning ranks very high on the list of radiation poisoning that is causing havoc in the environment. Also, as aforementioned, symptoms of this poisoning are not very clearly defined, so one must test and take corrective measures before its exposure takes the deadly form of lung cancer.