What is Radon?
Radon occurs in small quantities when other elements in the ground - such as Thorium or Uranium - break down. As Radon is a gas, it seeps up from the ground and into the air. This means Radon is all around us, but usually in quantities too small to have any effects on our health.
The ‘normal’ amount of Radon from the ground can vary place-to-place, as shown in the map from the European Commission above. As Radon rises from the ground it enters buildings from the basement or ground floors. Our homes, workplaces and and other public spaces effectively act as chimneys for Radon.
What are the effects of Radon?
If you live in a high-Radon area, the effects of Radon exposure can be profound. Research compiled by the US-EPA shows that Radon exposure is the second-largest cause of Lung Cancer behind smoking. It is linked to as many as 21000 deaths in the US, and the WHO estimates it may be responsible for 3 - 14% of all lung cancers worldwide. Smokers, and ex-smokers are particularly at risk: the WHO estimates that they are 25x more at risk than other people to develop Radon-related health problems.
What can be done about it?
Fortunately, Radon testing is effective and easy. First, one can check with their local authority to see if they are living in a high-Radon area. If so, or just for the sake of peace of mind, then a Radon test can be requested from IAQ or radioactivity professionals. Normally, onecan set up a test or a monitoring for their building and, after a few days or weeks, request a Radon report. This will advise on the state of your radon and what can be done about it.
How do Radon tests work?
While there are several methods of determining Radon-concentration, one of the oldest, most effective and widely used methods is the so-called alpha track detector. When Radon breaks down it releases tiny radioactive particles, referred to as Alpha particles. These particles interact with the special, chemically-treated films contained in alpha track detectors leaving a permanent mark; similar to how a camera film catches light. These films can then be sent to an expert lab, where the etchings on the film can be counted, and a concentration of Radon can thus be estimated.