|NUKLEONIKA 2010, 55(4):555-558
POSSIBLE ROLE OF RADON IN PREBIOTIC CHEMISTRY AND IN EARLY EVOLUTION OF LIFE ON EARTH
Zbigniew P. Zagórski
Centre for Radiation Research and Technology, Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology,
16 Dorodna Str., 03-195 Warsaw, Poland
Radon in the environment of early Earth was present in sites, determined by location of deposits of uranium, in very different geological formations. According to the decay of uranium-238, the total production of radon at the beginnings was twice as high as now and was continuously diminishing to the present levels. This nuclide could not play as big a role as do radioactive elements connected with the presence of high concentration of 235U, which was high enough in some places to give rise to formation of natural nuclear fission reactors (e.g. Oklo phenomenon in Africa). The main role of ionizing radiation in prebiotic chemistry and biological evolution was played by low LET (linear energy transfer) radiations, as deep penetrating sources of external energy. High LET radiations are of low penetration and could act only superficially. Radon is an exception, due to its easy transfer in the air. Therefore, it could play a role already in the cases of these early organisms which exhibited the gaseous exchange of chemical compounds with the surrounding atmosphere. The action was destructive, but, on the other hand, was also mutagenic. Nevertheless, the general quantitative effect of radon on the global scale could not be larger than of other radioactive nuclides. Presented considerations are part of the chapter by the present author on the role of nuclear and radiation chemistry in astrobiology, in the monograph published by American Scientific Publishers .