Radon - a discussion

This area is for discussions involving any fusion related radiation metrology issues. Neutrons are the key signature of fusion, but other radiations are of interest to the amateur fusioneer as well.
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Richard Hull
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Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Thu May 10, 2007 6:03 pm

Radon 222 is not a specific issue to fusion, but is with us, like it or not, as a component of the highly variable, locale specifc, NORM (naturally occuring radioactive materials).

As part of this forum, it might be well addressed.

The horror of radon is not radon, itself, but its daughters. These solids can collect in the lungs and ultimately wind up in the bloodstream and carry on into target organs. The only long lived duaghters to worry about is the 22 year half life Lead (Pb210) and polonium (Po(210).

Lead 210 emits a very weak beta of about 18kev. A GM counter can't detect this but at zero range in tissue such an electron can do harm. The body has repair mechanism that obviates the vast majority of radiation damage in tissue.

We will look at levels set and see what we take into our lungs.

Radon at the level of 4 pCi/l is the max that the powers that be like for you to be around, chronically, in a dwelling.

4 pCu/l means that there will be about 4 disentegrations of radon in a liter of air every 30 seconds! That is not a lot of disentigrating. More importantly is that there are now 4 radioactive SOLID atoms in the air.

In a disused room that has no moving air, ever, you might have as many as 4 daughters in equilibrium as well so, now we can have as many as 32 disentegrations per minute per liter. With an average 50cc pancake probe this would result in about an additional 1.6 cpm

A room that is well traveled and ventilated and has 4 pCi/liter, it will have 1/4 this level or 0.4 cpm increase. I you lived in a room with 3 times the maximum, (12 pCi/l), you might just detect 1 full extra count each minute.

All scales from here in the normal fashion.

Another way of putting it, a person spending 24 hours a day forever in a 12PCi/l room would have a background NORM increase of about 2%. Is this important?

For ALARAists it is foaming mouth time for realists, it is ignore time.

Averaging it all out, even in a 100pCi/l location for short periods hours or a few days, you are looking at a short period increase of only 16% in your NORM but even that is acute and not chronic.

Norm is that radiation that you can't escape from, remember. It is not a working level of radiation. We have no data on even 100% increases in norm.

There is almost no such thing as a radiation control group in studies as such a clinical group would have to be sequestered over years, fed the same food, exercise as much as the test group who would allow all manner of radiation to be introduced into their living quarters over the same period. This will never happen so all medical data is up in the air and it is back to what is effectively one's personal choice on what radon levels to live in.

All the samples in all tests and studies are from vastly different demogaphics, lifestyles, eating habits, etc. You just can't control a large enough control grouping over the periods of time to gain meaningful data at even 1000% increased norm levels which would be a mere 3R/year. You just might see no difference, more cancers or less cancers depending on how you bend the dicey data you collect.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Fri May 11, 2007 5:44 pm

Of course exposure to radon which is never trapped in the lungs is just not there. It is the single atom particulate daughters that get you. All are very short lived. Regardless of the activity of any daughter product, all the first four daughters are gone in short order.

We breathe in a specific number of atoms. The radon atoms don't stay inside us. What fraction decay while in our lungs is minimal even in extremely high radon areas.

What we do get in an equilibrium area is a full shower of physical elemental atoms of the daughters and they can hang in the lungs, though again, many do not as they are also exhaled. The activity of radon and its short lived daughters is high. However we do not beathe in activity, we breathe in NUMBERS or a specific quantity of atoms.

Radon will leave virtually zero daughters in our lungs. The daughter particles are what gets us. We get acute exposures from the short lived duaghters. If we breathe in 1000 daughter atoms and 500 don't get exhaled, we are treated to about 1500 more disentigrations from the other daughters in about 24 hours. This leaves behind a long term 1000 Pb210 and Po210 atoms which will keep on giving dosings over the next 100 years.

The beauty of the fast acute daughters is that none will be resident long enough to seek out and reside in a natural target organ. They hit the lungs only.

If we are in a high radon area for a week and breathe in, and have catch, 1million daughter atoms, and then leave and never breathe another radon duaghter, we will have been exposed to about 4 million total lung based disentegration in 24 hours but will forever drag around a chronic 2 million disentegration load for the rest of our lives.

The issue with radon is a nice steady blast of acute dosing from fast daughters coupled to a nasty, ever growing body burden of only the last two daughters that will, effectively, never go away during our lifetimes. These latter atoms will seek target organs due to their long lifetimes in the body.

So in a given radon environment you will have a continuous exposure from the first 4 daughters that will never vary, but you will have an ever growing and expanding internal source of radiation load that will never die out and never stop growing.

Still, I think the 4pCi/L limit is a bit ridculously low and unrealistic. I'll bet you could easily cruise along with 25pCi/L over a lifetime and do just fine..... Maybe even hormesis your way to a longer life while passing on stronger rad genes to offspring.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by JohnCuthbert » Sun May 13, 2007 1:29 pm

"For ALARAists it is foaming mouth time for realists, it is ignore time."
Real ALARists know what the R stands for. It's not Reasonable to do anything but ignore natural background unless it is known to be high enough to give a real risk

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Mon May 14, 2007 3:06 pm

We go back to what is high enough and who says so. What risk is acceptable to an ALARAist or a trained scientist or a medical doctor or an uninformed person may differ by orders of magnitude. The real thing is that there is no real data to go by beyond where immediate radiological effects are absolutely known to take place.

The low end is studied pretty much by hand waving folks looking to avoid lawsuits, play it safe to an extreme degree, and those who make many assumptions along the way that can allow them to massage data towards their personal feelings or the feeling prevalent at the time as confirmation is always accepted over confutation.

No one really knows anything about the low end of radiation over extended periods. There are no proper control groups as I mentioned before. There are far too many carcinogens out there, far too many varied lifestyles, far too many variable locales and background sources. No one knows how radiation scales even two orders of magnitude below immediate effects.

Genes make a difference and no one knows their genes. The body is a chemical engine that differs widely over many ethnicities and even locations.

We just don't know and may never know the real lower limits for real effects so those who are afraid of their "position of pronouncement" always choose to play it safe, regardless of their state of actual knowledge.

Am I saying that it is not good to play it safe? No. We all might do what we wish and look at our own level of safety from our own investigations and thoughts, but none of us should say what others should be mandated to believe on a subject that has no low end base line established by rigid experiment.

As for radon why accept any level if it is so horribly laden with daughters. I have long known that the average alpha ray causes over 100,000 ionizations before it comes to rest. You will never stop all of 'em. What makes one feel better with only several million damaging ionizations per second in tissue (2pCi/liter) versus several tens of millions. (20pCi/l) One is OK and the other is bad??!! At 2 Pci/liter we are to be happy in our homes safe from radon induced cancers? With daily damaging ionizations in the billion plus range!

It is back to no one really knows. Everyone is dosed with radon and a heaping helping of fear and little knowledge.

In the forties and fifites who cared about lead, cadmium, mercury, radon, and the plethora of other nasties that have come to replace the commie threat. As we become more savvy and intune with out bodies and health conscious, we are having more learning disorders and cancers per capita than ever. We are taking pills daily for any number of disorders and yet loading up on vitamins and other health beneficial medications to avoid dying before we hit 95. Are we sterilizing ourselves and our children to death!

For those who are 50 or out there..... How many pills did you take daily as a kid? How many did your folks take daily? How many did your grandparents take? How many ailments and conditions plagued you, your parents or grandparents or those of the kids you knew?

Did you know any kids that needed drugs inorder to be calmed enough to go to school? Any attention deficit disorders plague your school? Any bombers, gunmen killing folks in your school or any school in the nation when you were young?

Do I really believe I will be having good times and a fine life at 95? Why struggle to make it there?

As geo says regardless of what the radon level you are beathing in, there is certain damage due to billions of daily ionizations in the lungs and ultimately death. Whether by radon, or being hit by the Main street bus, your doom is sure and certain.

In the end, today, we are the real killers of ourselves and others and our kids are too!

Radon and your nasty daughters, mercury, cadmium, and lead........Take yer' best shot.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Mon May 14, 2007 7:52 pm

I just talked with Carl Willis asking him to post on his hair raising tale concerning his Mi Vida radon experience. I will let him tell that as he has agreed to post here soon.

In contrast to his tale, when Bill and I and Paul Carlock went to the same shaft and mine there was zero radiation in the shaft of all forms. The tiny entrance crawl space was breathing "IN". Carl will speak more to this issue.

We went fully prepared for a horrid experience at the Mi Vida with radon daughters having been forewarned by Carl's story from his 2004 visit there. This included special masks with radio-nuclide specific filters, extra water to wash out our clothes etc.

Bill Kolb was actually in the mine for about 20 minutes. Upon exiting we dismantled his mask filter and used a pancake probe counter to read the filter paper directly at the mine. We found NOTHING on the filter!

We did register significant radon levels at a couple of other mine adits, while out there, but I doubt if they were over 400 pCi/l level. Nothing to worry about during our stay.

I figure the normal preregulation mine air was at or above 500pCi/l in the fifities and this was for a 8-10 hour shift. Add to this that every hard rock miner was a Marlboro man and do we wonder why they were a tad more likely to kick off early from lung maladies.

Two packs a day, silicosis, radon daughters... nice combo one,two, three punch. It took years of this activity to kill these bastards off while in their 60's. You need not worry about 6 hours in a 500pCi/l liter mine shaft.

Now Carl can tell his tale that I have set it up.

I attach four shots near and at the Mc Cormick adit of the Mi Vida mine.
#1 The adit with Bill near opening and Paul to the right
#2 The interior blockage to the mine with the barely visible bodyhole just right of center near the top of the frame. Paul shooting picture.
#3 The bodyhole cut through the blockage...just big enough for a grown man to squeeze through. A very nasty experience as there is a constant blast air and dust that instensifies as you cork the tunnel up with you body. Hard to get through without a mouthful and ears full of grit. In an attempt to maintain radio contact with Bill, I had the horrid task of poking my head and radio through this hole for no more than 60 seconds. I'll never do it again!
#4 Monster man Bill Kolb has his respirator total face mask, cyalum light stick, flashlight, walkie talkie, and camera ready to venture into the mine.

Richard Hull
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MONSTER MAN2.jpg (56.73 KiB) Viewed 2075 times
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ADIT7.jpg (81.21 KiB) Viewed 2075 times
MINE INTERIOR3.jpg
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Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Carl Willis » Tue May 15, 2007 4:32 am

Attached is a slide from a presentation I gave a while back at Richard's HEAS, showing a pancake GM tube crackling along at 25 kCPM in one of the ore cars in the exterior part of the Mi Vida Mine adit. The detector needle is hard to see so I left the image at a high resolution for what it's worth.

At this time of the year (mid summer), the mine is "exhaling" dirty air through this adit. Consequently, anything that goes in the hole quickly picks up radon daughters to the extent that it becomes impossible to collect rock using radiation detectors nearby anything that has been in the hole in the last hour or more. My P11 respirator cartridge became so saturated with radon daughters in just a couple minutes underground that it would peg the pancake on the highest scale! In fact, I had to remove my clothes later that day and wash them in some pump water in order to get rid of the persistent daughters that were impeding my ability to collect with a 2"x 1" NaI detector that was my standard at that time.

During the fall / winter, the mine appears to inhale through this adit, and there may be little indication of radon right inside (or CO2, H2S, and CH4, all of which are also problems in this region).

-Carl
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Carl Willis
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TEL: +1-505-412-3277

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Tue May 15, 2007 1:38 pm

Simply amazing! We registered the same readings inside the adit that we did at the SUV 100 yards outside the mine! (about 3 times background.)

This shows that the Mi Vida, Mc Cormick adit is a most variable mine shaft. It is either pretty radiologically dead or so hot you don't want to be there more that a minute or two. What was amazing is that inside the actual tunnel on the other side of the small opening, we still picked up virtually nothing!

The air flow must have literally swept all radon and daughters very deep into the mine, indeed! Bill claims to have gone about 400 feet into the inky darkness......damned if I would. Again, no daughters on his filter.

There was a tense 10 minute period that we lost commo with him via the walkie-talkie and we thought we would have to go in or go for help. We yelled, no response. I stuck my body with radio through the hole (got grit in ears and mouth), nothing again via radio or yelling my lungs out.

When he finally did contact us, just as he was ready to exit, he said it was too much trouble to remove his mask and yell back or to use the radio. We openly cursed him for this. We were really worried. He was in there quite a while.

Those old mines are for the foolish and ever indestructable youth.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Tue May 15, 2007 2:09 pm

Did some calc's

The volume of the average pancake is about 35cc. or about .035liter. With 25kcpm in this volume that would be 416 Bq. or 11.8kbq/liter! This works out to an activity of about
(11,800/37,000) = or .31 microcuries per liter of radon + daughters or about .08uCi/liter of radon gas alone.

So it is not a far throw to say that at the actual fresh air opening of the mine where Carl had his counter the radon level was 80,000 pCi/liter!! Even I would consider this as very, very, very bad. The daughters alone were three times worse.

This calc is rough and crude and assumes that the volume of air just outiside the pancake, but equal to that of the pancake's interior is the source of all counts. this is not the case, obviously, as a few alphas outside this air volume may contribute and a larger number of betas can also contribute to the count. (longer MFP) However, this may be offset by the gross undercounting of decay gammas from daughters. (less than 2% counted)

In the end, the actual radon level might be as low as 50,000 pCi/liter. Still, unbelievably nasty.

The day I visitied the Mi Vida, the radon level was under 6pCi/liter based on my logged counts!

This would tend to make the Mc Cormick adit either the most radiologically horrid mine that anyone here has visited on the Colorado plateau or the most benign and radiologically safe, depending on the weather and the particular day or hour you were there. What a superlative dichotomy!

Remember, Radon is where you find it.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by Richard Hull » Wed May 16, 2007 2:19 pm

Sounds like a Radon Alert III might be in order there at the museum.

If the museum is small and has little traffic in and out you might have a radon issue.

Right after I got back from Utah, I was grading bagging and inspecting my 80 odd lbs of U rock for sales to collectors over a period of 3 weeks. The rocks were all over the lab benches, (lots of exposed rock surface area), as I checked each piece for fluorescence, CPM count, logged into inventory and marked each specimen with a mineral number. Ultimately, I bagged each specimen in a polyethylene zip lock bag with the provenance sheet and catalog number as is the norm, (no pun intended), for the mineral collector buff.

My lab was totally unventilated as winter was setting in and I needed to keep it warm for the work I was doing in there, mostly on weekends. I had my lab go from its normal 6pCi/liter to over 30 pCi/liter in about a week's time. (no big deal, of course).

I worked in this environment for about another 5 weekends with some weekday evenings and maybe was in there at this level for a total of 100 hours.

Ultimately, I went to a couple of gun shows and bought the familiar 20mm, .50 Cal. and .30cal mil spec, metal, ammo boxes. These have fabulous and absolute gasketed seals. All my rocks were dropped in these boxes and the secure seal snaps shut under the significant pressure of the heavy wire loaded latch. ZERO future radon storage leak issues.

The lab's air background count on a 2" pancake went to over 300 cpm during this period. Normal is about 70.

Once all were in boxes and moved out to my remote, isolated tool shed, I opened the lab and blew fans through it for two days.
A week later it was back to about 8pCi/liter and slowly settled back to its old standby of 6pCi/liter.

Now, if I need to go to a rock show or hamfest to sell my specimens, I go to the shed, take out a few ammo boxes, set them on a table outside and open them up for 4 hours to lose the radon and cool out all the immediate equilibriumed 4 daughters. I remove the baggies I want to take and then close the ammo boxes and return them to the shed. What I don't sell goes back in storage 'til the next sales opportunity.

Radon that I have about me is under control and I allow personal short term radon limits that might excite a lot of nervous nellies.

No U-rock is allowed in my home or dwelling for anything other than momentary tests and then only single specimens.

Inside my home varies from about 2-4 pCi/l. I check with a continuous running Radon Alert II and my superb Pylon lucus cell kit that I have shown here before. I have found that the Radon Alerts are within about 5%-10% of the much more precise, yet complicated and involved Pylon process. This is why I recommend them to low budget folks looking to get a handle on their radon levels.

Note* I tend to mount them low in a room, ~20" off the floor as radon is a heavy gas. Normal trafic in a home will usually keep it stirred though and this might not be a must.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Radon - a discussion

Post by ChrisSmolinski » Wed May 16, 2007 8:47 pm

Home radon levels can easily vary by an order of magnitude or two, with
changes in the weather, presumably due to atmospheric pressure "bottling
up" radon in basement areas or letting it escape outside.

I've run my air sampler with my GM-45 pancake detector for weeks at a
time, and seen dramatic changes in radon levels that coincide with
weather fronts. Which means that prospective homeowners are throwing
the dice when they order up a radon test on a home they're about to
purchase. But again, I agree with Richard that the radon hype is just that,
hype. 4 pCi/liter is an unrealistically low threshold. But we live in an age
where we can detect lower and lower levels of "contaminants", so we
must continuously lower acceptable levels to match (arsenic in well water,
anyone?) Meanwhile real problems are ignored.

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