Why is radon unhealthy
Radon is a natural decay product from radium and uranium-238. It is an odorless, colorless, gas. Radon has a half-life of 3.8 days. Once it decays, it will emit an alpha particle and subsequently decay four additional times within the hour.
These short lived atoms are called progeny or radon daughters. Listed in order:
Polonium-218 half-life 3.1 minutes
Lead-214 half-life 27 minutes
Bismuth-214 half-life 19.9 minutes
Polonium-214 half-life 164 micro sec
These particles are electrically charged and tend to stick to dust particles and the bronchial tubes. Each decay yields a burst of ionizing energy that can damage cell DNA. The lining in the bronchial tubes is the most sensitive to radiation induced cancer. Alpha particles are the most damaging since they release so much energy... one is emitted by radon and two by the daughters.
A radon mitigation system is designed to substantially reduce radon gas from a living space. When radon gas is removed from an area, the subsequent progeny or radon daughters that occur from this radon decay is eliminated.
Cohen, A. B., Before It's Too Late, Plenum Press, 1983.
How to use this information:
The purpose of this material is to educate the homeowner / buyer to the risks associated with ongoing radon exposure. Radon is present everywhere (even the outside air is.4pCi/L), so it is impossible to eliminate your exposure to this gas. The most prudent and practical step is to reduce your exposure in places that you spend large amounts of time... that's usually the home and why it's important to be at a safe level to minimize the risk to you and your family's health.
Testing is the only way to know what your risk levels are. Airborne and waterborne radon levels can be substantially reduced with today's technology to levels equal to or below the recommended action levels and often below the national average. If a home you are presently living in or are considering buying has high radon, please rest assured that it can be corrected.
A popular pie chart from government publications compares radiation exposure from major sources. Radon is responsible for about 55% of the total exposure to the average American. All natural sources combined make up 81% of the total exposure received. This assumes the national indoor average of 1.3 pCi/L.