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220Rn measurements and implications for earlier surveys of 222Rn

Meting van 220Rn en consequenties voor eerdere 222Rn-surveys : VERA-onderzoek

Synopsis

The concentration of radioactive radon gas (Rn-222) encountered in newly constructed dwellings was lower than that expected from earlier surveys. An investigation into the response of the radon detectors used in these earlier surveys revealed that these were also sensitive to radioactive thoron (Rn-220), of which more appears to be present than originally assumed. This is the primary outcome of a detailed examination of the detectors that resulted from a national study on radiation exposure in Dutch dwellings constructed between 1994 and 2003. Detectors used in international radon comparison studies have only been set to test for radon, not thoron. Consequently, in practice it is not immediately evident that some detectors actually measure thoron as well, which is also reported as radon. The increasing interest shown by the Netherlands for thoron, provoked by survey results that appear to have been strongly affected by this radioactive isotope of radon, is mirrored by many other countries. The thoron found in dwellings seems to originate from a (frequently used) building material, possibly a finishing material, which has a relatively high thoron exhalation rate. It has more recently been determined that for many years a type of plaster was used in the Netherlands that contained phosphogypsum, a material known for its high radon content. However, it is possible that other materials incorporated into finishing layers also contribute to higher indoor thoron levels. A large portion of the total indoor exposure of occupants to radiation is from inhalation of radioactive decay products of radon and thoron. Radon and thoron are formed in the soil and earth-based building materials by radioactive decay and, because they are gaseous, they are able to diffuse into homes and other buildings. Exposure to ionizing radiation in the home accounts for approximately half of the average annual radiation dose received by a Dutch citizen.
 

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