Answer to Question #7554 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Environmental and Background Radiation — Radon

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q

Can you please tell me how furniture is affected by exposure to radon?  For example, will furniture taken from a house with a radon level of 160 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq m-3) be safe to keep?

A

The short answer is yes, it is safe to keep. Radon itself is an inert gas and will not attach to furniture. The short-lived radon decay products, which are the main health concern when inhaled, will deposit on any surface, but will have decayed to insignificance within a few hours after the furniture is removed from the house. 

A very small amount of lead-210, which is generated by the decay of the short-lived radon decay products, has been shown to deposit on surfaces in houses and caves (Lively and Ney 1987).

Although lead-210 deposition has to be measured with sensitive techniques and is used as an indicator of radon concentrations in some research studies (Jankowski et al. 1999), the amount is very small and has not, to my knowledge, been identified as a radiological risk by health agencies or other authoritative organizations.

Tom Gesell, PhD

References

  • Lively RS, Ney EP. Surface radioactivity resulting from the deposition of radon-222 daughters. Health Phys 52(4):411-415; 1987.
     
  • Jankowski J, Olszewski J, Skubalski J. Measurement of Po-210 atoms content in glass as an indicator of long-term exposure to radon. International Journal of Occupational Med and Env Health 12(3):221-228; 1999.
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