7.- Radon in our life...

Radon (222Rn) is a noble radioactive gas, this means that it is chemically non-reactive, but it is a radioactive element and as such, the radon nuclei are instable and disintegrate emitting alpha radiation and originating radioactive metals such as polonium and other heavy metals (1-3).

In nature there are three isotopes of radon gas, 219Rn, isotope produced in the disintegration chain of actinium, also known as actinon. 220Rn produced in the series of disintegration of thorium, thoron, and 222Rn, constituent of the decay chain of uranium, radon. This last isotope is the one that is found in greater proportion in the terrestrial environment and while open spaces its concentration in air is not usually high.

The radon is a gas, originated in the subsoil, and it has mobility to go at surface. Radon diffuses through the house foundation and accumulates inside (3). Radon also enters in water from deep wells (1).

Radon has been classified as a carcinogen since 1988 and declared by the United Nations Commission on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) as the most important source of ionizing radiation in indoor environments (5). Breathing radon for many years eventually raises the risk of developing lung cancer (1-4). Radon is estimated to cause between 3–14% of all lung cancers, depending on the national average radon level and smoking prevalence (2). Radon exposure indoors is recognized by the World Health Organization as the second most important cause of lung cancer in many countries (2).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and partners announce the USA National Plan to prevent lung cancer deaths due to radon exposure (6). The deadline given by the European Union (EU) for the preparation of the National Radon Action Plan has expired on 08-02-2018 (7). Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Although smoking remains the predominant cause of lung cancer, lung cancer in never smokers is an increasingly prominent public health issue (8). Domestic radon exposure may also contribute to the risk of lung cancer in never smokers, although some controversy remains, and arsenic in drinking water has also been implicated (8).

The risk of serious health problems from exposure to radon has been amply demonstrated. Local governments should be aware of such risk and alert /educate the population about it and establish regulations to prevent radon from accumulating in closed inhabited spaces, such as homes, workplaces, schools, etc. The Municipality of Torrelodones (Madrid Community, Spain) is a good example of the proactive local governments in the prevention of the radon effect in the local population (10).

  1. Radon, United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, 2018. https://www.epa.gov/radon

  2. Radon and health, World Health Organization, June 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs291/en/

  3. Walt Pickut, The Effects of Radon Gas on Humans, Livestrong.com, June 13, 2017, https://www.livestrong.com/article/138254-the-effects-radon-gas-humans/

  4. European Radon Association (ERA), http://radoneurope.org/

  5. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization, vol.43, 1988, http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol43/

  6. The USA National Plan to prevent lung cancer deaths due to Radon Exposure, EPA 11/10/2015, https://archive.epa.gov/epa/newsreleases/epa-and-partners-announce-national-plan-prevent-lung-cancer-deaths-due-radon-exposure.html

  7. European Radon Day 2017, Europea Radon Association, ERA,  http://radoneurope.org/index.php/activities-and-events-2/european-radon-day

  8. Heather A. Wakelee, Ellen T. Chang, Scarlett L. Gomez, Theresa H. Keegan, Diane Feskanich, Christina A. Clarke, Lars Holmberg, Lee C. Yong, Laurence N. Kolonel, Michael K. Gould, and Dee W. West, “Lung Cancer Incidence in Never Smokers”, journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 25, n. 5, February 10, 2007

  9. American Cancer Society, Radón y cancer, 2018, https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/cancer-de-pulmon-no-microcitico/causas-riesgos-prevencion/factores-de-riesgo.html

  10. Municipio de Torrelodones (comunidad de Madrid), España, 2018, https://www.torrelodones.es/buscar?searchword=Radón&searchphrase=all


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