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The most stable isotope of actinium has 138 neutrons in its nucleus and has an atomic mass of 227. Neutrons stabilize the nucleus because they help offset the electrical repulsion between protons. When there are too few or too many neutrons for a given number of protons, the nucleus is not stable and undergoes radioactive decay. The most common types of radioactive decay are alpha, beta, gamma, and electron capture.
Actinium is a rare and expensive element with no known commercial uses. It is a member of the actinide group, which also includes radium, radon and polonium. It is also a radioactive substance that must be handled with extreme care because even minute and gross releases can lead to the accumulation of actinium in organisms, including humans. This build-up can be harmful because it can damage the cell membrane and inhibit the normal function of cells. Like all radioactive substances, it is very poisonous and must only be handled by trained professionals. Mishandling can result in the release of significant quantities of radiation that can harm the genetic makeup of future generations and cause cancer, heart disease and other diseases.