86Rn Radon

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Friedrich Dorn of Germany

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


This element was originally named niton, but changed to radon (named for the element radium, which decays into radon) in 1923. Radon is a colorless, odorless, gas and is the heaviest gaseous element. Radon is a noble gas, so it is chemically inert. It is also highly radioactive, eventually decaying into lead. Radon has the interesting characteristic of glowing brightly when it is cooled below its freezing point. Radon is used in cancer treatment. It also has an interesting use in earthquake prediction. The most stable isotope of radon has a half-life of 3.8 days.

Biological Benefits

Radon has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefit for life processes in plants and animals.


Radon is a decay product of uranium, thorium and radium. Consequently, it is found emanating from minerals containing those elements. It is a danger in uranium mines, and homes built in areas with concentrations of uranium find radon gas seeping into their basements, creating a health hazard for the occupants. It is also occasionally found dissolved in certain hot spring waters.