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What radon is and how it is formed by radioactive decay

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Introduction

What radon is and how it is formed by radioactive decay

The average person receives each year more radiation from radon than from all other natural or man-made sources combined.

Radon gas is produced by the natural disintegration of radioactive heavy metals uranium and thorium, which are dispersed throughout the Earth's crust. As the atoms of radioactive heavy metals disintegrate, they change into lighter and lighter radioactive heavy metals until they end up as stable, non-radioactive lead. But at each step of this radioactive decay chain the atom nuclei emit radiation - alpha and beta particles, or gamma rays

Radon is the heaviest known gas, nine times heavier than air.

When radium disintegrates into alpha particles and atoms of radon, 10 to 50 percent of the radon atoms escape from the mineral grain into the underground "soil gas," which also carries biological decay gases and moisture

As radon gas moves through underground fissures, it usually decays into solid particles after several feet. But it travels much farther in dry, permeable soils, like gravel or course sand. Radon is soluble in water and underground streams can carry it long distances.

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Middle

. Instead of just bridging a radon-filled gap, it sinks in and fills it. Such deep caulking also withstands hydrostatic pressure. Polyurethane remains flexible for years, as the house settles and concrete moves. Sometimes, the wall/floor joints are smudged over by a thin layer of concrete, which easily lets in radon. It is best to open up such joints with a grinder and properly fill the gap with the self-leveling caulk.

Understanding Radon
Uranium and radium are two common elements found in soil. Radium is actually a decay product of uranium. When the radium itself begins to naturally break down (called radioactive decay) a colorless, odorless radioactive gas called radon is produced. It can be found in single- and multi-family dwellings, as well as schools and other commercial buildings. According to the Surgeon General, radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA has declared radon a "Class A" carcinogen, which means it has been known to cause cancer in humans.

As the radon gas decays, it turns into tiny radioactive particles that can get trapped in the lungs.

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Conclusion

Some variations include drawing radon from beneath plastic tarps laid across unfinished dirt floors, letting existing basement drainage pipes or sump holes double as radon collectors by attaching exhaust fans to them, and installing powered vents in the air spaces within concrete block foundations. Again, the extent of the radon problem, the entry point and the design of the home will dictate the best solution.

Diluting the radon gas is the third method of mitigation. This is not an economical whole-house solution because of increased heating or cooling costs. It is well suited to unused basements and crawlspaces that can be isolated from the living area of your home by the deft use of vapor barriers and insulation.

After the mitigation is completed, a retest of the area is necessary to determine if the method chosen was successful.

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