BigBarney wrote:After reading the report that Richard posted I don't believe we have
anything to worry about With the coal or the ash residue. Since most
of the radiation is contained in the rock and other non burnable part
of the coal it it more or less locked in that material,so naturally the ash
has more of the radioactive components within it.
Coal probably is no worse than the and concrete and other rock type
material which most basements are constructed from.
Radiation isn't "locked in" to the rock. If it were, it would be of no concern.
Radon is a product of uranium decay. It is very unstable, with isotopes having half-lives ranging from 1.8 hours to 3.8 days. This instability, and the fact that radon is a gas is what makes it dangerous. Radon gives off alpha radiation (helium nuclei), which isn't terribly dangerous. A few inches of air, or the dead layer on the surface of your skin, is enough to protect you. However, breathe in the gas, and now the alpha particles can blast away at you from the inside. Being so active, some of the radon you breathe in is bound to decay while inside you, hitting you with radiation. Worse, when radon decays, it becomes polonium, which then decays into lead. So, you breathe in the radioactive gas and are left with radioactive metals in your lungs that you can't breathe out.
Anthracite coal, being almost entirely carbon from decayed pants, will essentially not have radon in it. There are bound to be some radioactive mineral contaminants in the coal however, and these noncombustible minerals are concentrated in the ash as the coal is burned. All ashes are more radioactive than the original fuel for this same reason.
Long story short, the radon problem is caused not by what is in your basement, but what is under it. Radon is seeping up from the ground below.
EPA Connecticut map:http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap/connecticut.htm