Carbon Monoxide is a much-publicised invisible killer. But there’s another little-known gas (radon) that kills 27 times more people, causing the deaths of 1,100 people a year in the UK alone. Worse still, it could be seeping into your home.
This gas is a radioactive, odourless, colourless gas that is naturally present throughout most of the UK and in several other countries across the globe. It is emitted in varying quantities or concentrations from radioactive elements, for example Uranium, that are naturally present in rocks and soils.
Epidemiological studies on the health of miners undertaken by the United States Public Health Service during the 1950s and 1960s established a link between higher concentrations of Radon and incidences of lung cancer.
As Radon is emitted from the ground, it quickly dilutes in the atmosphere into relatively harmless concentrations. But in confined and unventilated spaces in buildings, in basements and in underground mines, it’s concentration levels can become dangerously high.
The Daughters Of Radon
Following more detailed research undertaken in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, it was recognised that concentrations of Radon in residential dwellings and other buildings could reach concentrations of a sufficiently high level to present a material risk of lung cancer.
It was following this research that the UK government introduced a series of policies and regulative measures for the monitoring, recording and reporting of Radon levels, as well asguidance, relating to the mitigation of Radon levels in buildings. In 1991, UK building regulations first introduced a requirement that Radon protection measures, must be incorporated within the design of new buildings in Radon affected areas. This guidance has been revised since.
Radon itself does not really cause tissue damage. It is the decay products, sometimes referred to as the progeny or daughters of Radon, that do. Radon gas may be inhaled and exhaled with little damaging effect. But the decay products include Radon – 222 (derived from Uranium – 238) and Radon – 220 (also known as Thoron, and derived from Thorium – 232), and other progeny including Polonium-218, 214 and 210, that can. PAGE2