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Radon and health

Radon and health

3.1. Health risks of radon inhalation

Radon is also commonly inhaled, so its direct physiological role is negligible. It can become harmful to health if radioactive decay products – which are already solid elements – attach themselves to aerosol particles in the air. By inhaling it, the radioactive isotope enters the lungs, where it can attach to various parts of it. The radioactive radiation it emits directly affects cells, damaging them and increasing the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer. Epidemiological experiments show that there is a causal relationship between elevated radon levels and lung cancer recurrence. According to the results of the tests, the cancer caused by radon occurs in the upper part of the airways, in the first few sections, especially in the bronchial branches. From this, we can conclude that the deposition of aerosol particles in the airways is responsible for the development of tumors.

Currently, there is still an active debate among researchers regarding the quantitative value of the risks of radon inhalation. According to the data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 2003-2016 years, the annual incidence of lung cancer per hundred thousand inhabitants ranged between 105.4-130.8, which is equivalent to an average of 10,540-13,080 new lung cancer cases per 10 million inhabitants per year. Based on estimates from the international literature, radon inhalation is responsible for 3-14% of lung cancer cases.

When establishing radiation protection standards and regulations, the guidelines of the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) are taken as a reference. Based on Authority Circular No. 137, 100 Bq/m3From long-term inhalation of air with radon concentration Lung Cancer above the basic level, The relative risk is increased (excess relative risk, ERR) 16%.

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Based on the same publication, 100 Bq/m3Air with an activity concentration of 0.67 Sv under standard conditions. So 300 Bq/m3reference levelOur annual dose corresponding to (calculated with an exposure time of 7000 hours) 14 mSvmake up

The search results show that smoking f Long-term high concentration of radon exposure to Together, they can significantly increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer. Based on model calculations, the cumulative risk of developing lung cancer in lifelong smokers and nonsmokers can be estimated There is a 25-fold difference between its risks.

It is important to stress that a persistently high level of radon for many years can potentially lead to disease development.

Literature used:
WHO guideline on radon, a public health perspective, 2007
Summary of ICRP Recommendations on Radon, ICRP, Ref 4836-9756-8598, January 26, 2018
Information Note for Participants of the IAEA Technical Meeting on Implications for New Dose Conversion Agents for Radon, 1-4 October 2019 May 2020

3.2 Biological effect of ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation is essential in the cells of living organisms (or in the molecules that make them up). They create physical changeionization.

Charged particles create ionization in matter directly, and electromagnetic radiation and radiation of uncharged particles via secondary charged particles.

Depending on their energy, primary and secondary charged particles can destroy biological molecules in two ways. In the case of high-energy particles, the ionization and damage events occur directly in the biological macromolecules. Low-energy particles, such as electrons, only have a small amount of energy to cause direct damage. Electrons mainly interact with water molecules that are present in large quantities in the body and free radicals are formed.

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Free radicals are atoms or molecules that contain an unpaired electron in their outermost shell and are therefore highly reactive. Free radicals are primarily generated in water molecules as a result of the effect of ionizing radiation.

Basic physical changes can lead to chemical changes and then biological changes. In general, it can be said that cells that divide frequently are sensitive to ionizing radiation. In some cases, biological changes can lead to health effects, but at the same time, most changes at the cellular level are corrected by the body’s immune system. Health effects from radiation are called radiation damage.

User literature:
Cs. Pesznyák, G. Sáfrány (ed.) (2016) Radiation Biology, Typotex, Budapest