Radon exhalation of building materials
Wentzel, Farrel Sidney
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Public concern about all radiation and radon exhalation from building materials has been highlighted recently. The purpose of this study is to address this public concern and to investigate the contribution of building materials to indoor radon levels. As in soil and rocks, radon gas is formed inside the building materials by decay of the parent nuclide 226Ra. It is not possible to determine the radon exhalation rate simply from the activity concentration of 226Ra, instead one must measure radon exhalation rates directly from the surface of the material. 222Rn has been identified as an important factor that could result in a health hazard by studies all around the world. The exhalation experiments were done at the UWC physics department, in the Nuclear Physics Lab. A RAD7 radon detector was used to measure the radon concentration in an air tight chamber that contained various building material samples. The RAD7 records the number of alpha particles with energy of 6.11 MeV which results from the decay of 218Po, the daughter of 222Rn. The RAD7 detector converts counts into Becquerel’s per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The building materials tested were the raw materials used in construction such as two different types of building sand, building stones, coarse aggregate, floor and roof tiles, various granites from across the world that were sourced locally and uranium bearing sandstone originating from a Beaufort-West prospecting site. Stones from this site were used as filler material in the construction of two farm houses. Most building materials were found to have a very low rate of radon exhalation. The only materials that had any significant radon exhalation were 2 granite samples with a maximum exhalation rate of 1.5 Bq.m-2.h-1 and the uranium bearing sandstone. It is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of building materials tested are safe to use but some granites may require further study. The uranium bearing sandstone is a definite radiation protection issue and should not be used in any construction.