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January 17, 1972

Delayed Hazards of Radon Irradiation

Author Affiliations

State University of NY Brooklyn, NY

JAMA. 1972;219(3):384. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03190290070024

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To the Editor.—  The communication "Radiation Dermatitis Secondary to Radon Needles" (218:88, 1971) was read with interest. The thrust of the article is correct, ie, that serious degenerative skin changes may occur after radiation therapy, including radon therapy, and that a possible sequel to this is malignant degeneration. For accuracy, however, the following require elaboration: (1) a-Radiation from radon is completely absorbed by the wall of the container in which it is inserted. To use a "sensitive αcounter" over a patient's face for the detection of residual a-radiation is an exercise in futility since no α-radiation will be detected. (2) While it is true that radon is a pure a-emitter, the therapeutic usefulness of radon does not lie in its emission of a-rays, but rather in the emission of β-and γ-rays by its descendent decomposition products, one of which, lead 210 (radium D), is long-lived. For each millicurie of