What is Radon Used For?

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What is Radon Used For?
What is Radon Used For? (The San Fransico earthquake of 1906. Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Radon (Rn) is an element that takes the form of radioactive gas that has no color nor odor. It is considered a health hazard if too much of it is in a home. But even though it is radioactive, it still has some uses in scientific areas such as for earthquake prediction and for some medical treatments, specifically of cancer.

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Types

Radon is uses in medical treatments and seismology. Radon conventional medical use is now limited to treating cancer tumors, although alternative medicine practitioners insist that taking sauna baths in radon water can help arthritis. In seismology, tracking sudden increases in radon gas in soil or water is thought to predict earthquakes or in trying to find underground faults that could indicate more earthquake activity in that area in the future.

History

Radon was probably first used by people bathing in hot spring waters for a medical cure-all, as radon is present in many hot springs. It was soon used in experimental medicine soon after its discovery in 1900, including drinking water with radon or receiving radon water enemas. These practices were endorsed as late as the 1930's. Radon used to be used for making X-rays, but is not anymore. Although it once was thought that radon could help with treating arthritis, conventional medicine frowns on this practice. Radium and radon were used to dose cancer tumors started in the 1940's, but are only sometimes used now, with caesium and gold taking over many tumor treatments. Tracking radon emissions started in seismology in the early 1990's and continues today.

Significance

Using radon to treat malignant cancer tumors with radiotherapy helped to treat just the tumor and not subject the entire patient's body to high does of radiation. It is hoped that better tracings of radon gas in soil and water can help predict when and where earthquakes are most likely to occur.

Time Frame

Radiotherapy treatments for cancer patients vary in how many a patient would need. Radiotherapy can be used alone, but usually in combination with other treatments to help manage a person's cancer. Radon emissions can happen weeks or moths before an earthquake (see Resources).

What is Radon Used For?
Paitent undergoing radiotherapy. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Warning

Radon is radioactive, caused by the decay of elements radium or uranium. Radon gas is thought to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. Signs of too much radon exposure are sudden bald patches in your hair, skin burns, fatigue, infertility and dryness of the mouth. These symptoms only develop over a long period of exposure.

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