Radon: Seeing Alpha Radiation
Sophia Lee
Moscrop Secondary
Floor Location : M 069 D

The most pertinent and dangerous reported long-term effect to exposure to Radon gas which seeps out from openings in houses is lung cancer. If you inhale a radon atom, the atom can dissolve while it is in your lungs. When it disintegrates, it becomes polonium-218, which is a metal. The quick, hour long sequence of alpha, beta and gamma emissions can lead to mutations in the lung tissue, which can cause cancer.
A natural gas was one of the leading causes of cancer! I wanted a way to fix this and perhaps warn those who live in a cloud of this silent killer without even realising it.
There are many ways to verify if there is radon in homes, however most of these solutions are either expensive, done over a long period of time or they require a pricey or unreliable laboratory test. Could there a possible way to check for radon immediately? There are Geiger Counters that detect radiation, but I wanted a more visual aspect. The counter might show you 300CPM, which is quite a high exposure, but you won’t be able to sense its reality, until you can see how many alpha particles you are inhaling on a daily basis. Cloud chambers are able to see subatomic particles, however checking for radon radiation needs a more narrow, specific method of seeing those helium nuclei that radon emits.
We were doing nuclear equations in school and my science teacher briefly mentioned that smoke detectors held americium, which gave off small doses of alpha and gamma rays as it was decaying. The americium taken from the smoke detector gives off alpha particles like radon. If we can get the camera to detect the alpha particles coming from the americium, it will probably be able to detect radon radiation from its alpha particles as well. If it is able to detect alpha particles from radon, then we may be able to save over 20 000 lives each year, around 3 000 being those who never smoked.