Topics: Radon, Lung cancer, Decay chain Pages: 3 (1370 words) Published: October 16, 2005
There is a phantom killer lurking in our homes, office buildings, and schools. We cannot see it, taste it, or smell it. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated to cause between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths per year making it the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths following cigarette smoking (EPA). This phantom is the radioactive gas called Radon. Interestingly radon is a form of radiation that is a natural part of our environment. Radiation has always been in the Earth's atmosphere and without it life could not exist. However, too much radiation is lethal (Cole 7). Radiation can be a useful tool under controlled conditions such as in x-rays and cancer therapy. In some parts of Europe areas with high radon levels are thought to cure such maladies as arthritis, headaches, sores, tumors, and influenza (none of these claims has ever been proven scientifically) (Brookins I). Radon gas is a decay product of Radium which is part of the decay chain that begins with uranium-238. Uranium can be found everywhere on the Earth (Cole 8). Therefore, radon can be found almost anywhere. So, why should we be concerned with a naturally occurring gas in our environment? Radon was a little known health hazard until 1984 when a nuclear plant worker in Pennsylvania consistently caused the plant's radiation detectors to sound an alarm when he walked into work. The plant was not in operation and since the worker set off the alarms when entering, it was clear that he hadn't been exposed at work. Plant officials took measurements at his home and discovered that the radiation levels were 200,000 times above the acceptable level for homes near a nuclear plant. The family had been exposed to radiation levels' equaling 455,000 chests x-rays per year (Giles 6). Obviously the radon exposure in this home was extremely high. However, the potential for radon to be high indoors is what makes it a deadly gas. For a house to have a radon...
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