Today people live in environment full of threats that may and do affect their health and safety. Apart from natural disasters, industrial accidents and catastrophes, social disruption and human addictions to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, there is another threat that is not less dangerous for people's health and safety. Colourless and odourless, this threat is radiation.
Objective and easy to understand information on threat is a key for its correct perception by people. When talking about radiation it's important to keep in mind that radiation is omnipresent and is a background to human existence since the dawn of civilization. People live in the 'Ocean of Radiation' and have it in them all the time. Today we discuss radiation safety problems with Nadjat NASSYROV, Director of the "Center for Security, Safety and Control" LLP.
- What is radon?
- Radon is a radioactive, colourless, odourless noble gas, that people can not neither see, nor feel. Radon Rn-222 is formed in the Earth crust as part of the normal radioactive decay chain of uranium and thorium that exist naturally in low concentrations in different rocks, but its concentration varies wildly from place to place.
As soon as radon originates from rock, it is geology that learns its formation and distribution. First, its concentration in the environment depends on that of the parent elements in soil and rock. That is why first picture on the radon distribution in the environment can be obtained from the geological map.
Even though radioactive elements in different concentrations present everywhere, their distribution in Earth crust is very uneven. Uranium is found in hundreds of minerals including uraninite (the most common uranium ore), carnotite, autunite, uranophane, torbernite, and coffinite. The most significant concentrations of uranium usually can be found in plutonic (magmatic) rock, especially in granites. High concentrations also occur in some substances such as phosphate rock deposits, and minerals such as lignite, and monazite sands in uranium-rich ores. It goes without saying that soil and clastic sediment resulting from processing of these types of rock also contain uranium.
Being gas, radon usually migrates freely through soils and in very small amounts releases to the atmosphere easily dissolving into it. But if radon migrates through soils into some closed space (such as a building) in some cases its concentration may reach levels dangerous for people's health. It can evolve from soil through the basements and from huge amounts of constructing and decorating materials. Its concentration indoors is much higher than that outdoors because of the relatively low ventilation rate of the buildings, and increases during the winter. Moreover, radon easily dissolves into water and can concentrate in bathroom and kitchen at an intensive rate (researches have shown that concentration of the Rn-222 in bathroom increases 20-25 times when hot water is switched on for 30min). Radon concentration becomes even more intense when using the borehole water.
- What makes radon dangerous?
- Radon decays quickly, giving off tiny radioactive particles, so called radon progeny. When inhaled, these radioactive particles can damage the cells that line the lung and cause lung cancer. Today most people suffering from lung cancer are those who have been exposed to high levels of radon for sustained periods of time, and not smokers as it is widely assumed.
According to the long term researches, radon exposure causes 20,000 deaths per year in the United States. Moreover, according to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, radon together with its radioactive progeny is responsible for approximately 75% of the annual individual effective irradiation dose.
- Where do radon-related problems exist?
- Geological maps and preliminary studies have shown that population of Kazakhstan lives primarily on radon-dangerous territories. High levels of radon have been detected in Almaty, Zhezkazgan, Kokshetau, East Kazakhstan and other areas.
- What measures should be taken?
- The most important thing people should do in order to protect their and their families' health and safety is to make special tests to measure levels of radon in their homes, offices or apartment.
As an example, here are some facts from my own observations, on how people deal with their health. The easiest way for them is to go to the drugstore and buy an appropriate remedy (without any professional specialist's consultation, just asking seller for an advice). Usually we spend five to ten thousand tenge for medicines. For comparison, one radon measurement costs around 3 000 tenge.
First of all it's necessary to measure radon levels in houses, public, administrative and industrial buildings. This can only be done with the use of special equipment and help of radiologists. These measurements will provide you information on whether existing radon levels are dangerous or not. Such measurements should be conducted regularly and periodically.
If any amount of radon is found in the basement of the house, you should move out of this house and move to a new place. But this is an extreme measure to solve the problem; radon level can also be reduced through some fairly simple, inexpensive and effective measures.
To make tests in your home, office or apartment you can contact our experts in the "Centre for Security, Safety and Control" LLP that operates under the state license of the Atomic Energy Committee of MINT RK # 0002070 from 02 March, 2009. Licensed services include:
- Radiation control of areas, facilities, scrap metal, vehicles (measurement of the exposure dose);
- Measurement of the radon level.
Company address: 71 Torekulov street, Almaty (corner of the Seifullin street, in the building of the Kazakhstan-Russian Medical University, third floor, Suite 315.
Phone numbers: 279-18-09, 279-55-72, 279-18-22,