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A practical approach to limit the radiation dose from building materials applied in dwellings, in compliance with the Euratom Basic Safety Standards
- Smetsers, Ronald C.G.M., Tomas, Jasper M.
- Journal of environmental radioactivity 2019 v.196 pp. 40-49
- air, breathing, compliance, construction industry, construction materials, floors, gamma radiation, models, progeny, radioactivity, radionuclides, radon, recycled materials, safety standards, wastes
- Individuals receive a significant part of their radiation exposure indoors. We anticipate that this exposure is likely to increase in the near future, due to a growing use in the building industry of recycled materials and materials previously regarded as waste. Such materials often contain elevated levels of natural radionuclides. Directive 2013/59/Euratom (‘Basic Safety Standards’, BSS) pays comprehensive attention to indoor exposure from natural radionuclides, but proper implementation of all corresponding BSS regulations is not straightforward, especially when regarding the regulation of building materials containing so-called Annex XIII materials. In this paper, we discuss the most relevant deficiencies in the BSS and present a practical approach to cope with these. Our most important observation is that adequate methods for assessing the annual dose due to gamma radiation from building materials are not provided by the BSS. This is in particular difficult because compliance of single building materials has to be tested, but the corresponding BSS reference level refers to gamma radiation emitted by all building materials present in a room. Based on a simple model of three layers of building materials, we present a set of operational conditions for building materials, either used for construction purposes (‘bulk layers’) or for the finishing of walls, floors and ceilings (‘superficial layers’). Any customary combination of building materials meeting these conditions will stay below the BSS reference level for gamma radiation. This statement holds for the middle of a reference room, but is not always the case close to the walls, especially when low density materials with a relatively high content of natural radionuclides are present at the inner side of the room. This can be avoided by applying more strict conditions for those kind of materials than presented in this paper. We further focus on the indoor exposure to thoron progeny. Building materials that pass the test for gamma radiation can still be a significant source for indoor air concentrations of thoron progeny. When the average annual thoron inhalation dose were to be restricted to 1 mSv a−1 − a level comparable to the BSS reference level for gamma radiation − the activity concentration of Ra-224 in (especially porous) building materials used for wall finishing purposes should be limited to a value of typically 50 Bq kg−1. Even if our suggested approach of the BSS regulations is fully implemented, it still allows for a significant increase in the average radiation exposure in dwellings due to external radiation and thoron progeny. However, the situation will be worse if a less strict interpretation of the BSS regulations will be applied.