It sounds like a scene from ?Raiders of the Lost Ark,? but it?s true: some of Egypt?s ancient monuments contain high levels of the lethal gas radon. Radon is produced by the decay of uranium, which is contained in the building blocks that were used to build some of the pyramids and other monuments. High levels of radon increase the risk of lung cancer.

Guides currently work inside these monuments for 4 hours a day. If their working hours were doubled, their radon exposure would exceed the international safety limit. Visitors are not at risk, since their exposure time is so limited.

Radon concentrations would have been much higher when the sites were first opened. ?The high radon levels may not have caused the Curse of Tutankhamen,? says Murdoch Baxter, editor of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, ?but it probably won?t have done those early Egyptologists much good.?

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