I’ve learned some interesting facts about radon recently. Some scientists suggest that ‘no level of radon is safe’ and this comment is published in EPA’s Citizen’s Guide. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Yet it is invisible and may be present without your knowledge.
Radon is among the most toxic of elements and some scientists suggest that any exposure should be avoided. Here is an excerpt from a recent study:
There is no clearly safe level of exposure to four of the most common environmental toxins in the world, and more should be done to protect the public, researchers argue in a new report.
The toxins in question — lead, radon, tobacco smoke and byproducts of drinking-water disinfection* — are ubiquitous, and there is growing evidence that even low-level exposure can have health consequences, according to the report, published in the medical journal PloS Medicine.
‘Emerging evidence indicates that exposures must be virtually eliminated to protect human health,’ conclude Dr. Donald Wigle, of the University of Ottawa in Canada, and Dr. Bruce Lanphear, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
The problem, Wigle told Reuters Health, is that there are no known safe levels of exposure to these toxins, yet people are persistently in contact with them.
‘These are widespread exposures,’ he said. ‘They’re not rare.’
Most people associate radon with basements, but if you have well water it is possible to have radon in your water. The danger from waterborne radon is inhaling it in the shower or while standing at your kitchen sink.
The most effective means of removing radon from your water is to use an aeration system. This system will agitate the water to remove the gas and vent it outside before the water enters your home. I do sell radon aeration systems for well water . These can be used for radon, hydrogen sulfide, and even methane.
Sometimes carbon filters are used to remove radon but I have found the effectiveness of carbon filters in removing radon to be spotty – meaning that they may remove very little radon as opposed to removing all of it. This may be due to water temperature or to flow rates.
I only recently learned of another possible danger associated with radon. That is the accumulation of radon in carbon filters in your kitchen.
The situation would go like this: say you have radon in your water and either don’t know it or don’t do anything about it. But you purchase a kitchen water filter appropriate to treat your water for other contaminants. Radon then accumulates in the carbon filters and slowly degrades into other radioactive elements:
Here’s an interesting link that describes the sequence of events as radon decays from one form to another:
‘222Rn is the only natural isotope of radon. (Several other artificial isotopes are known, but about the only place they exist is in the physics lab. Let’s work with the natural one.) This isotope is itself the daughter of 226Radium, by the way. (226Ra had to decay to create 222Rn.) The decay scheme for radon is as follows:
222Rn will alpha decay (half life of 3.8 days) into 218Po
218Po will alpha decay (half life of 3.1 minutes) into 214Pb
214Pb will beta decay (half life of 27 minutes) into 214Bi
214Bi will beta decay (half life of 20 minutes) into 214Po
214Po will alpha decay (half life of 160 microseconds) into 210Pb
210Pb will beta decay (half life of 22 years) into 210Bi
210Bi will beta decay (half life of 5 days) into 210Po
210Po will alpha decay (half life of 138 days) into 206Pb (stable)
In case it isn’t obvious, radon and its daughters are all radioactive and pose a hazard. (Save lead, 206Pb, the final daughter.) And because radon is a gas and is inert, it travels around in the air and can be inhaled. And an airborne radionuclide is harder to defend against and contain than a liquid or solid one. Radon is suspected of accounting for a high percentage of lung cancer deaths since exposure to radiation can cause cancer.’source:
From that site you can see that if you breathe the radon these events will happen in your lungs. I don’t know what happens if you drink the radon assuming that it does not all escape as gas. This same series of decay will take place within your undersink carbon filters. Because the half life of Lead 210 (210 PB) is 22 years that’s essentially the final product in terms of what will be in your filters. It is radioactive.
The real question is whether or not there is any risk of radiation emanating from your filters as you stand at the kitchen sink. That I don’t know but some people suggest that is a risk. The degree of risk will depend to a large extent on how much radon is in your water. Your filters will contain some amount of the lead and other various decaying elements when you go to change them. That suggests a potential hazard in handling and disposing of them.
I had never heard of this until recently and will try to keep informed of the issue and learn more. In the meantime if you have radon in your home and are on well water then you will water to test your well water and we can determine how to treat it for whatever contaminants are present.
Learn more about enjoying healthy water for your home by visiting my website.