By Ivan Quail

Australia makes up 5% of the world’s land mass, yet we have 34% of the world’s Uranium  reserves. Unfortunately, “natural” fossil gas is not pure methane. It also contains radioactive Radon gas, Radon 222, produced naturally in the Uranium 238 decay chain.  Two exploratory boreholes in the Kimberley (Canning Basin) have yielded Uranium and  Radon gas in the water. 

As radioactive elements decay, alpha- and beta-particles are emitted  that can damage  living cells by breaking the weak bond between the atoms that make up DNA. Radiation  is the main driving force (greater than 90%) which causes genetic mutation, evolution and cancer. 

The horizontal lines show decay by alpha particle emission and the diagonal lines show decay by  Beta particle emission.  

It’s the Mev (Mega electron volts) that damage  living cells by breaking the weak bond between atoms that make up molecules in DNA. Radiation  is the main driving force (greater than 90%) which causes genetic mutation, evolution and cancer. 

Major contributors to health affects in table form:

Symbol  Element  Radiation  Half-Life  Energy 

released (Mev)

U-238  Uranium-238  Alpha = 4,460 M Yrs  4.27
Th-230  Thorium-230  75,380 Yrs  4.77
Ra-226  Radium  1,600 Yrs  4.87
Rn-222  Radon gas  3.825 days  5.59
Pb-210  Lead-210  Beta  22.2 Yrs  3.79
Po210  Polonium-210  138.37 days  5.4
Pu-239  Plutonium-239 Fuel in Bombs  & Reactors 24,110 Years  5.15


Radon: Our Major Source of Radiation Dose 

Radon 222 is a natural radioactive isotope of element number 86, that occurs in the Uranium 238 decay chain. Its immediate parent is Radium 226. Radon 222 itself decays by alpha particle emission through a  series of short-lived decay products (mainly isotopes of Polonium, Lead and  Bismuth) to Lead 210 and, eventually, on to stable Lead 206.

That is short lived relative to Uranium 238 but not in human life-time terms. It will take 22.2 x 7 = 155 years for 99% of the Lead 210 to have decayed into Polonium 210. It will take 968 days = 2.65 years for 99% of the Polonium 210 to decay into stable Lead 206. 

This decay process is like turning a tap on and walking away leaving the tap still running. It is an  ongoing and continuous process. Think of it as a waterfall with cascades and each cascade is a  different radioactive daughter element and they are all running at the same time. It should not be  thought that after 155 or 2.65 years that is the end of the story. That applies only to the Lead 210 and  Polonium210 created today. Lead210 and Polonium210 created tomorrow or this day next year will  again last for 155 years and 2.65 years respectively and simultaneously and so on for as long as  Uranium and its progeny/daughters Thorium, Radon etc exist on the surface of the planet.  

Every last gram of Uranium in the earth’s crust will go through this decay process. U238 to Po210 = a  reduction of 12% of the mass which has been converted into energy to melt rocks and create lava to  keep the planet warm and us from living on snowball earth.  

The question is whether this decay will happen securely sequestered under-ground or on the surface of  the planet? Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) are not normal radiation if they have  been removed from their secure location underground. 

(146 neutrons + 92 protons = 238 = Uranium238) 

The above graphic shows Beta particle emitters which are even more damaging to living cells than alpha  particles. Lead 210 (Beta emitter) has a half- life of 22.2 years 

Alpha particles can rip through 2000 DNA helixes, 200 nerve cells & 39 sperm cells.  Beta particles can rip through 43 Human egg cells, 838 sperm cells, 4,300 nerve cells and  43,000 DNA helixes. Outside the body your skin will stop it. Inside, it can and does cause cancer. 

Unlike the gaseous radon itself, Radon daughters are solids and stick to surfaces, such as dust  particles in the air. If such contaminated dust is inhaled, these particles can stick to the airways of  the lung and increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

Permissible releases of radioactive material and decay products or progeny are cumulative  on grass which cattle and sheep eat, leaf vegetables, grain, fruit, berries, tobacco leaves, soil, water and seafood thus entering our food chain and often further concentrated along the way.  

Health consequences  

  • Embryos are 50 times more vulnerable to genetic mutation than adults  
  • Children are 10 times more vulnerable to genetic mutation than adults  
  • Latency period for tumour formation and leukaemia is shorter in children than in adults.  And shorter still in embryos.  
  • Genetic mutations are passed on to succeeding generations. 

Any suggestion that Radon daughters or progeny evaporate into the ether and are of no  consequence is like saying that when you burn coal you get heat and ash and a little CO2 which  evaporates into the ether and is of no consequence. Science does not support that theory. Similarly for fugitive methane and radon emissions from fracking and the fossil gas industry. 

Please see my submission to the WA fracking inquiry for further evidence of fugitive methane  emissions and Radon gas in those emissions (pages 3, 4, 5 & 8). 

See also my submission to the WA Sustainable Health Review which gives further information on the  health consequences and costs (pages 6 to 9).