Monday, 1 April 2019

Strange happenings in East Cornwall

Reports are coming in of a strange illness which is affecting a number of people in the Bodmin area of East Cornwall. The symptoms, of loss of energy, insomnia and pallor, are apparently similar to those of acute anaemia, which is usually associated with heavy blood loss. However one theory is that it may be due to release of a pocket of radon gas from one of the many old mine workings in the area.
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colourless, odourless, tasteless gas. It occurs naturally in minute quantities as an intermediate step in the normal radioactive decay chains through which thorium and uranium slowly decay into lead and various other short-lived radioactive elements; radon itself is the immediate decay product of radium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of only 3.8 days, making it one of the rarest elements since it decays away so quickly. However, since thorium and uranium are two of the most common radioactive elements on Earth, and they have three isotopes with very long half-lives, in the order of several billions of years, radon will be present on Earth long into the future in spite of its short half-life, as it is continually being generated. The decay of radon produces many other short-lived nuclides known as radon daughters, ending at stable isotopes of lead.
Unlike all the other intermediate elements in these decay chains, radon is, under normal conditions, gaseous and easily inhaled and is considered a health hazard. It is often the single largest contributor to an individual's background radiation dose, but due to local differences in geology, the level of the radon-gas hazard differs from location to location. It is known to occur at a relatively high level in parts of Cornwall due to the relatively high amount of uranium in the granite which underlies the whole county at various depths.
But could radon gas account for the strange symptoms suddenly manifesting themselves in this locality? I sought the opinion of Dr. Richard Head, the Director of the nearby Bodmin Institute, but unfortunately he was not available. His secretary told me that, since returning from a recent geological trip to the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, he has not been seen during office hours, and has been working in his office through the night on a large soil sample which was delivered in what she described as a long and narrow rectangular box.
So I spoke to my brother, Bartholomew, who is back at the Bodmin Institute after a brief spell with MEI. He is as much perplexed by this outbreak as others, but tells me that a specialist consultant from Denmark, Prof. Elvan Singh, who apparently has had experience of similar outbreaks, will be coming over to Cornwall soon to investigate. Meanwhile Bartholomew appeals to anyone reading the blog who might be able to shed light on this very strange occurrence.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, this story reads more like it is something coming from the human element rather than radon and oh yes the date is?

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well done!!

    ReplyDelete

If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment, and any photos that you might like to add, to bwills@min-eng.com and I will submit on your behalf