Radon concentrations in kindergartens and schools in two cities: Kalisz and Ostrów Wielkopolski in Poland
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- Bem, H., Bem, E.M., Krawczyk, J. et al. J Radioanal Nucl Chem (2013) 295: 2229. doi:10.1007/s10967-012-2272-2
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Plastic PicoRad detectors with activated charcoal have been used for radon monitoring in local kindergartens and schools in two cities, Kalisz and Ostrów Wielkopolski, in the region of Greater Poland. Detectors were exposed for a standard time of 48 h during the autumn and winter of 2011 in 103 rooms (Kalisz) and 55 rooms (Ostrów Wlkp), respectively. The detectors were calibrated in the certified radon chamber of the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, Poland. The arithmetic and geometric means of indoor radon concentrations in the examined rooms were 46.0 and 30.3 Bq/m3 for Kalisz and 48.9 and 29.8 Bq/m3 for Ostrów Wlkp, respectively. The measured levels of the indoor radon concentrations were relatively low, since the main source of indoor radon for these low storey (max. three storeys) buildings is radon escaping from the underlying soil with a low 226Ra concentration (~15 Bq/m3). Therefore, the calculated annual effective doses from that source for the children in Kalisz and Ostrów Wlkp were also low 0.35 mSv.
KeywordsIndoor radonChildren exposureEffective dose evaluation
Radon, in particular its longer living radionuclide 222Rn and its short lived daughters, is considered the second leading cause of lung cancers after tobacco . Many worldwide epidemiological studies have been conducted in recent decades in order to confirm the association of the number of lung cancer cases with chronic exposure to indoor radon. As a result of these studies, summarized in the leading international organization elaborations, it is now one of the best documented associations [1–5]. Therefore, the International Committee for Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommendations emphasized the importance of controlling radon exposure in dwellings and work places arising from existing exposure situations .
Recent studies have also showed that children are more susceptible to radiation exposure than adults even for low doses obtained, for example, during CT examination  as well as those from slightly enhanced natural radiation . However, until now there are no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon. On the other hand, it is assumed that the lifetime attributable risks (LAR) for solid cancer incidence strongly depends on age of exposure, for example for children exposed to 0.1 Gy dose at age 10, the expected lung cancer incidence is twofold higher than that for people exposed to the same dose at age 30 . Children also have longer latency periods for cancer developing as well as spending more time at home. For these reasons a special interest has been observed in indoor radon measurements in kindergartens and schools, and the majority of these results has been recently reviewed . However, in Poland such measurements were carried out scarcely [11–14] and remarkably higher radon concentration exceeding 200 Bq/m3 have been observed in the Silesia region of Poland in areas affected by underground mining .
The aim of this study was to carry out a preliminary survey of radon levels in the kindergartens and schools in the two cities, Kalisz and Ostrów Wielkopolski, located in the southern part of the Greater Poland region, in the Fore-Sudeten monocline tectonic unit. Unfortunately, in the recently published data of the mean annual 222Rn concentration in homes for the whole of Poland, this region had not been taken into consideration .
We have previously proved that the PicoRad detector method using plastic scintillation vials with charcoal for Rn adsorption and liquid scintillation finishing is very convenient for large scale surveillance of Rn in dwellings [14, 16–19]. The temperature fluctuations during a standard 48 h detector exposure time can be easily corrected (if necessary) by a proposed computational program  and that exposure time is sufficient to average the diurnal variations in radon concentrations in the examined rooms .
Method of measurements
Results and discussion
Parameters of 222Rn concentration distributions in Kalisz and Ostrów Wielkopolski kindergartens and schools
Number of flats
Arithmetic mean (Bq/m3)
Arithmetic mean standard deviation (Bq/m3)
Geometric mean (Bq/m3)
Geometric standard deviation
Minimum concentration (Bq/m3)
Maximum concentration (Bq/m3)
The calculated arithmetic and geometric means of radon concentrations in these cities are comparable: 46.0 and 30.3 Bq/m3 for Kalisz and 48.9 and 29.8 Bq/m3 for Ostrów Wlkp. However, as is evident from these figures the results do not well fit to typical log-normal distributions, and corresponding values of geometric mean standard deviations are relatively high.
The observed average arithmetic and geometric values for radon concentrations are higher than those observed for the city of Lodz in central Poland: 17.9 and 13 Bq/m3 , respectively. There are no experimental data on the 226Ra concentrations in surface soil in these two cities. However, according to the Radiological Atlas of Poland  226Ra concentrations in this region are only slightly higher than those for the Lodz area (average ~15 Bq/kg). Therefore, these differences can be explained by the fact that the overwhelming majority (80 %) of the kindergartens, play schools and schools in these two cities are two storey buildings and the major contribution to the total indoor radon activity comes from radon escaping the underlying soil. It is worth noticing that the values of the geometric mean concentrations and medians are very close to each other in both cities and therefore, the geometric mean values should be taken for the effective dose calculations.
Effective dose calculation for children
The dose conversion factor values for radon inhalation has been recommended by different organizations on the base of epidemiological studies concerning the risks the lung cancer from residential and occupational exposure to radon, as well as upon the dosimetric models using the ICRP Human Respiratory Tract Model (HRTM). The dosimetric models assume that nearly the entire lung dose arises from the inhalation of the radon progenies deposited in the respiratory airways of the lung. As a result of these two different ways of dose evaluation, one could observe some discrepancy in the recommended DCF values . However, the ICRP on the basis of the recent epidemiological data revised the lung cancer risk estimates caused by Rn inhalation to the higher value of 8 × 10−10 Bq h m−3, and consequently to the higher value of DCF = 10 nSv/Bq h m−3 . This value is very close to the 9 nSv/B Bq h m−3 recommended by UNSCEAR .
The annual average indoor radon concentration Cin in examined rooms can be calculated by multiplying the mean concentration determined by us in the October–December period by the appropriate seasonal correction factor resulting from seasonal fluctuation of indoor radon in dwellings for that region of Poland . The average value of this correction factor for buildings with basements in this area was 0.96.
As previously determined for buildings in Central Poland, the average equilibrium factor for radon and its daughters Fin = 0.6 .
Such calculated average annual effective dose for children from radon and its daughter’s inhalation in kindergartens and preschools can be compared to the annual average effective dose from all natural sources of radiation, which in Poland is equal to 2.43 mSv . However, one should take into account fact that it is only part of their total inhalation doses, not including indoor exposure in their houses and outdoor exposure to radon and its daughters according to Eq. (3). Moreover, for the highest observed indoor radon concentrations ~200 Bq/m3, the corresponding annual dose during the children’s stay in these rooms will exceed 2.3 mSv. Taking into account the at least twofold higher risk of radiation to children than for adults mentioned above, such exposure needs a proper action to mitigate the Rn concentrations in these buildings. Although the ICRP recently revised the upper value of the so called reference level for radon gas in dwellings from 600 to 300 Bq/m−3 , there is still a lack of any international recommendation for permissible indoor radon concentrations in buildings used by children.
The financial support from the Voivodeship Protection of the Environment and Water Management Fund in Poznań is gratefully acknowledged.
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