Effect of soil moisture on seasonal variation in indoor radon concentration: modelling and measurements in 326 Finnish houses

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Abstract

The effect of soil moisture on seasonal variation in soil air and indoor radon is studied. A brief review of the theory of the effect of soil moisture on soil air radon has been presented. The theoretical estimates, together with soil moisture measurements over a period of 10 y, indicate that variation in soil moisture evidently is an important factor affecting the seasonal variation in soil air radon concentration. Partitioning of radon gas between the water and air fractions of soil pores is the main factor increasing soil air radon concentration. On two example test sites, the relative standard deviation of the calculated monthly average soil air radon concentration was 17 and 26 %. Increased soil moisture in autumn and spring, after the snowmelt, increases soil gas radon concentrations by 10–20 %. In February and March, the soil gas radon concentration is in its minimum. Soil temperature is also an important factor. High soil temperature in summer increased the calculated soil gas radon concentration by 14 %, compared with winter values. The monthly indoor radon measurements over period of 1 y in 326 Finnish houses are presented and compared with the modelling results. The model takes into account radon entry, climate and air exchange. The measured radon concentrations in autumn and spring were higher than expected and it can be explained by the seasonal variation in the soil moisture. The variation in soil moisture is a potential factor affecting markedly to the high year-to-year variation in the annual or seasonal average radon concentrations, observed in many radon studies.

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