Radon discovered in Coal Seam Gas?

In an earlier post on shale gas at Moomba, I said I would begin to explore further what the consequences would be from escalating fossil gas extraction.

Here's the start, and we'll begin with coal seam gas (CSG). 

Extract a fossil and you don't know what else will come with it. And so it is with CSG. 

This ABC News item (7 March 2013) is about research being conducted by Southern Cross University (SQU). Radon has become the focus of attention. It has been discovered in higher concentrations around gas wells in Queensland.

SQU researchers say that more work needs to be done to try to understand what the implications are.

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive chemical element and occurs naturally as a gas when uranium and thorium decay. It does not have any stable isotopes, but the most stable is radon-222 which has a half-life of 3.8 days. Some of the other isotopes have a very short half-life of less than one minute. 

Under normal conditions, radon is the only gas that has radioactive isotopes, and consequently it is considerd to be a health hazard as it is easily inhaled.

Radon is found in just about every home in the developed world. Because it is a product of uranium, it basically drifts upward from soils and rock sub-stratum. As a gas, it can accummulate in particular spaces of homes.

For a greater understanding of radon, go to this entry at Wikipedia.

Radon is under the radar in Australia

Now, do not accept the dismissive remarks of the APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association) representative on the ABC News item about radon and the researchers. Check this US EPA site for information about radon. 


And there’s more information at this link … http://radonresources.com/resources/

It should be remembered that only a few molecules of any radioactive material is sufficient to cause harm to humans, given an alignment of circumstances. What about this statement at the US EPA site.

* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA's 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Reports.

APPEA should be supporting research like SQU is doing, not dismissing it.

For an Australian perspective on radon, have a look at this Australian Government website.


Governments around Australia do not really know what impacts are being produced by radon right now. They do not have data that is equivalent to what is known in the US.

So, what has a bit of radon discovered in CSG wells in Queensland got to do with South Australia?

Everything. Remember, we are all connected in some way or another. Radon is found in some underground water systems and in hot springs (see the Wikipedia article afore-mentioned) Release an unwanted ionizing agent into the atmosphere, and it then becomes impossible to prevent its spread. 

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