Radiation and Radon


Activity that occurs when one or more neutrons are added to an atom’s nucleus causing instability and the resulting nucleus becomes unsettled or radioactive.

Protons and neutrons are held together by nuclear forces.  

  • Radioactive Decay – the nucleus of unstable atom loses energy.


Ionization involves emitting excess energy from the nucleus, which physically changes an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions.

  • Process of converting an atom into an ion by gaining or losing electrons.
  • Beginning stage of radiation.
  • Ionized atoms react with other matter to create radioactivity.
  • Creates a decay product of the parent isotope.

Ionizing Radiation (IE Cancer Causing)

There are three main types of nuclear radiation emitted from radioactive atoms:

  • Alpha
    • Greatest risk associated with radon/RDPs
    • Mostly a problem in the lungs
    • Low penetrating power
    • Can cause great tissue damage
    • Alpha RBE (Relative Biological Effect) is 20 times greater than Beta or Gamma radiation
    • Alphas leave tracks on the plastic.
  • Beta
    • Relatively small mass and charge (total charge of -1)
    • Relatively fast moving, travels up to two meters
    • External Hazard – Skin Burns
    • Internal Hazard – Inhalation and Ingestion
  • Gamma
    • Pure energy, no mass, very penetrating
    • Moves at the speed of light
    • No charge
    • External and internal hazard
    • Similar to X Rays
    • Bundles of energy or photons of energy