Radon, an invisible and odorless gas, comes from the natural decay of uranium found in the earth. Despite being hard to detect, radon is a significant health risk and the second leading cause of lung cancer. Curiously, the amount of radon that escapes from the ground into our homes and the air isn’t constant—it varies significantly depending on factors as small as the size of soil particles. This raises a question: How do the physical properties of soil influence this hidden danger?

In a significant advancement in environmental science, researchers from the Physics Department at Jazan University, Saudi Arabia, have discovered how the shape and size of soil influence radon gas release. Their study, published in “Nuclear Engineering and Technology,” by Dr. Entesar H. El-Araby and Dr. Amal Azazi, sheds new light on how soil composition, particle size, and the size of the container holding the soil affect the behavior of radon, a cancer-causing gas.

Dr. El-Araby clarifies the essence of their discoveries, noting, “Our findings show that the rate at which radon is released is directly influenced by changes in the size of soil grains. All measured aspects of radon gas behaved similarly.” This key observation connects the physical properties of soil directly to how much radon is released.

Further details on their research were provided by Dr. Azazi who points out the effect of container size on radon release. “By increasing the size of the container, we see more accumulation of radon’s byproducts on the walls, which in turn increases the amount of gas that escapes,” she explains. This information is vital for understanding how radon’s behavior can be influenced by environmental conditions.

Radon release is significantly influenced by the characteristics of the soil, as the research shows. “There’s a clear link between particle size and radon release rates,” Dr. El-Araby adds, emphasizing that larger grains allow for greater radon escape, increasing the surface area available for the decay process.

The study also highlights an unexpected observation regarding the amount of soil used. Dr. Azazi indicates, “The rate at which radon escapes was inversely related to the amount of soil used, with other factors showing similar inverse behavior.” This suggests that less soil tends to have a higher percentage of radon release, pointing out that radon escaping from the outer layers of soil is greater than from deeper inside.

These insights are crucial for public health, especially in areas like Jazan, where radon exposure could pose significant risks. They also emphasize the importance of incorporating such environmental insights into building and urban planning to effectively reduce radon risks.

Through their detailed analysis, Drs. El-Araby and Azazi enhance our understanding of radon dynamics and emphasize the importance of considering both natural and constructed environmental factors in urban development to protect public health from the invisible threat of radon.

Journal Reference

Entesar H. El-Araby & A. Azazi, “The effect of geometrical parameters on the radon emanation coefficient and different radon parameters”, Nuclear Engineering and Technology, 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.net.2023.07.028

About The Authors

Dr. Entesar H. El-Araby is an assistant professor at Jazan University. Holding a
Ph.D. in Experimental Radiation Physics from, Ain Shams University. She has
published many research papers on radon pollution and its various effects on the
environment and society. She studied the impact of urban development on
environmental health. It has made significant contributions to understanding radon
gas contamination in air, water, soil, and construction sites, especially in the Jazan
region. The research presented has been recognized in many high-impact journals, confirming our commitment to Environmental research. Currently, I am exploring sustainable building practices, food materials, and makeup to mitigate environmental risks.

Amel Azazi, with a Ph.D. degree in Material sciences from the University of
Monastir, is a prominent figure in the field of computational physics research.
As an Assistant professor at Jazan University, Azazi has focused her efforts on
theoretical and experimental studies, garnering considerable acclaim for her
insights into optoelectronic devices. She has several publications to her credit
and is known for her innovative approaches to material challenges. Azazi is
currently working on developing community-based strategies to address
environmental health risks.