Radon exposure in buildings: influence of occupational habits

Radon is a radionuclide that originates after the disintegration of the uranium contained in soils and rocks. Due to it exists in a gaseous state at air temperature, it can emanate from the rocks and move throughout the soils, leading the surface of the terrain and entering inside the dwellings. Guidelines and recommendations on radiological protection are published in order to protect the population against the hazards arising from radon exposure. To this aim, instructions and policies collect guides and settle on reference levels that correspond with a value that shall not be exceeded. The Directive 2013/59/EURATOM and the Spanish Technical Building Code stipulate a reference level of 300 Bq/m3 of annual average activity concentration in air. Therefore, the buildings that exceed the reference level will be labelled as a priority in terms of initiating actions and integrate mitigation measures. Additionally, in order to minimize the risks of indoor radon exposure, the WHO specifies a reference level of 100 Bq/m3, imposing that in any case a building should exceed the level of 300 Bq/m3. Nevertheless, according to WHO reports, there is no level below which the radon exposure is considered safe.

The risks related to radon and its progeny exposure depend on the absorbed dose per individual, being this quantified in the terms of dose. The scope that the exposure to these radionuclides will have on each occupant of a dwelling will depend either on the radon concentrations of the building, as on several factors such as the time and type of exposure. On one side, ventilation rates and renewal standards of the air, together with radon fluxes behaviour, alter radon quotes among the same building. All these parameters are a key point regarding indoor air homogeneity of the emplacement and, therefore, have an impact on the exposure rates received by the occupants. Likewise, the dose received is built upon the dwellers’ daily routines, due to they determine their occupation times, like the type of chores and activities performed inside each room. The development of activities and exercise habits, as opposed to quiet routines, can significantly influence the doses received by the person and then, consequently constitute a different risk comparing one individual to another.

This work illustrates a feasible case of radon exposure in a single house and their occupant doses characterization. By that, the different aspects that would have an impact on the risk of exposure are evaluated and integrated with the aim to develop further correction and mitigation measures. This analysis compiles an example of the diverse exposure profiles that can take part as co-habitants in a residence, concerning their own habits. Thereby, an evaluation of the potential dose that would receive each occupant, depending on their routines and the different areas’ indoor radon concentrations is presented. All this to ensure the integrity of the residents which dwellings, or part of them, are found below the reference levels, but still entail a risk to their health.

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