Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of radium. It is one of the densest substances that remains a gas under normal conditions. It is considered to be a health hazard due to its radioactivity.
Radon is formed as part of the normal radioactive decay chain of uranium, which is present in small amounts almost everywhere in the Earth’s crust. When a radioactive atom decays, its nucleus, which is unstable, breaks down, turning into the nucleus of another element, called a daughter product. At the same time, a small burst of radiation is released in the form of an alpha particle or a beta particle or one or more gamma rays.
Uranium breaks down through a series of radioactive daughter products, which usually remain chemically attached to the material containing the uranium, until radon is formed. Radon, being chemically inert, does not combine with the atoms of its host material; instead it works its way through the tiny cracks and voids in the ground and into the atmosphere, where it can be inhaled in the air we breathe. Radon is thus a natural fact of life.
The daughter products of radon are also radioactive. When we breathe in radon and its daughters, some radioactive decays take place inside our lungs. The alpha particles produced can cause damage to lung tissue. Such damage can lead to lung cancer.
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