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General Info
Atomic Symbol Atomic symbol::Rn
Atomic Number Atomic number::86
Atomic Weight 222 g/mol
Chemical series noble gases
Appearance Invisible
Group, Period, Block 18, 6, p
Electron configuration [Xe] 4f14, 5d10, 6s2, 6p6
Electrons per shell 2,8,18.32,18,8
Electron shell radon.png
CAS number [10,043-92-2]

Radon is a radioactive chemical element without any stable isotopes. It is the 86th element in the Periodic Table, a colorless noble gas. It was discovered in 1900 by Friedrich Ernst Dorn. However, it was first isolated in 1908 by William Ramsay and Robert Whytlaw-Gray. William Ramsay and Robert Whytlaw-Gray gave this element the name "Nitens." Nitens is the Latin word for Radon which means shining.[1]

Radon is very radioactive, but will only react with other substances under critical conditions. It is the heaviest gas that has been discovered. Radon is the final gas found in the noble gases. Since Radon is very radioactive its half-life is about 2.8 days and then it begins to break down. Like the way Radon is formed by the breakdown of thorium and uranium, Radon breaks down into elements like lead and bismuth. Radon can be found in the air and anywhere where thorium and uranium are located and because it is a gas it rises out of the ground. Although it may accumulate in storage rooms, basements or other low level rooms.


Radon is the most dense gas found by man and at standard temperature and pressure is colorless and odorless making it very hard to detect. Radon does begin to glow yellow when it is below freezing. The freezing point of Radon is -96 degrees F. The half life of Radon is remarkably short and is very radioactive but when it comes to chemical reactivity, it does not react with many other chemicals because it is a noble gas.[2]

Since Radon is heavier than most gases it can be found in the basements of most homes or any other rooms that are located low in the building. [3] The boiling point of Radon is -61.8°C and with a density of 9.72 grams/liter it is around 7 times denser than air. Below its boiling point, Radon changes into a clear, colorless liquid when it is dissolved in water and if its temperature is lowered anymore liquid radon can become frozen. When Radon becomes a solid its once yellowish color changes to a orange-red as the temperature decreases and it begins to glow from the strong radiation that is being created. Radon does not react with many other substances well and was once thought to be chemically incapable of doing so. A few chemists in the 1960's discovered that there were a few elements that Radon would react with. Radon Fluoride (RnF) was the first compound produced with Radon in it. [4]


Mean concentration of radon in the atmosphere

The amount of Radon located in the world is very scarce and it is hard to estimate how much is actually out there. Radon can be found as uranium and radium breakdown. A method that is used to obtain radium is to submerge a compound of Radium or Uranium in water. While the Radium or Uranium are underwater, gases begin to form and those gases are to be collected in glass tubes. Gases such as Oxygen and Nitrogen are expelled from the tube and when all that is done the only gas that is located in the tube is Radon. [5] Radon can be found in the atmosphere and spring waters and some hot springs. There are springs located in certain countries such as Germany and Japan that have water springs that are full of radon. In the atmosphere radon is scarce. There is about one atom of Radon in every 1 x 1021 air molecules. Radon can also be found in granitic soil and in soil where uranium is present because when uranium breaks down radon is formed. Radon can also be found around nuclear power plants. A little bit of radon comes out of the fuel and travels to water to be cooled. It is later removed and placed in tank where it remains for a while until it is flushed out into the air. [6]


Radon has a few medicinal uses. It was once used to treat cancer because of its radioactivity but it would cause side affects that would damage the person. [7]It is also used in hydrologic and geologic research because radon escapes quickly into the air. It is also used in monitoring large air groups. Radon is also used in locating leaks of gases or fluids. Radon or an isotope of Radon is added to the area where the flow of gas or liquid originates and a Geiger counter can be used to locate the Radon. A Geiger counter is an instrument used to locate Radon and it either flashes light or produces a sound when Radon passes through it. Radon was also used a treatment against cancer. Radon gives off a radiation, that if controlled and carefully monitored, can kill cancer cells. If the Radon is not monitored carefully or if too much of it is given then the radiation produced by Radon can kill the healthy cells in our body. The dangerous side effects of Radon have lowered the use of it in the medical field and it is also not used as much because new treatments have been found that treat cancer better and that are more patient friendly.

Health Effects

Radon has a very short half-life and because of this, it will begin to decay very rapidly. When Radon does begin to decay it discharges minuscule radioactive particles. Breathing in these radioactive particles will increase you chance of obtaining lung cancer because the radon particles have a chance to cause cancerous mutations or growth to cells all around it. Next to smoking, exposure and inhalation to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon causes 21,000 deaths per year. The symptoms that Radon produces may not show up quickly and if you are not sure of the radon levels in your home or your area of work it may be too late and before you know it you could be diagnosed with lung cancer. Another factor that may increase you chances of lung cancer is smoking. People who smoke and live/work in an area with high levels of radon are at greater risk of getting lung cancer greatly.[8]