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  • Daniel McClain

January is National Radon Awareness Month. But how was Radon Discovered?


#Radon, #RadonAwareness


National Radon Action Month is held every January to increase the population’s awareness about radon — a radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and found across many homes in the U.S. This month also serves as a mouthpiece of sorts to promote radon testing and mitigation activities and promote the use of radon-resistant practices. Note, this event is not to be confused with another observation — the Radon Action Week — which is held in the third week of October. This special holiday seeks to educate and inform individuals about radioactive gas and its effects on health. Read on to discover tips to help keep you healthy!


According to NationalToday.com :

In 1899, two scientists at McGill University in Montreal found a radioactive element, the fifth one after uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium. Marie and Pierre Curie saw that this element would emit a gas that remained ‘active’ for a whole month. The very next year, German physicist and professor Friedrich Dorn was studying radium when he noticed it was emitting a radioactive gas, which he called ‘radium emanation’. Similar emanations were later seen from other radioactive elements, and this is how the world discovered radon.

There were many iterations of the name itself until the gas finally became radon in 1923. Soon, people realized that this gas was naturally occurring — it appeared when uranium in the soil decayed, and could technically be everywhere. However, knowledge about the dangers of radon preceded the discovery of this gas. The Swiss physician, Paracelsus, wrote about a wasting disease that afflicted miners in 1530, and Georg Agricola, a German scholar, and scientist, even recommended ventilation in mines to avoid what was then known as ‘mountain sickness’.

Because of the mining work at uranium sites, miners were the ones most affected by this gas. The very first studies linking radon and health problems were based on uranium mining in the Joachimsthal (or Jáchymov) region of Bohemia, located in what we now call the Czech Republic. By the 1950s, studies showed radon gas presence inside houses all over, including American homes. While miners were continuously working in uranium mines, standards were only implemented after 1971 in the U.S., during which time research was also being conducted into why radon occurred inside homes and how best to reduce its ill effects.

Radon and its subsequent health effects came under public scrutiny after an incident in 1984. A construction engineer at a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant was contaminated with radioactivity even though the reactor inside the plant had never even been fueled. Further research showed his home has a high quantity of radon gas. Now, the scientific world knew radon gas could cause serious problems, and they increased their efforts to solve this issue. Today, efforts include educating the general public about this gas and its effects and how they can protect themselves from harm.

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