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Correlation of soil radon and uranium with indoor radon in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area

Abstract

High indoor radon in approximately 30 percent of private dwellings in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area has been reported previously. The present study explains the areas of high indoor radon as a function of different soil and/or bedrock in the area. Soils were sampled during summer and winter periods using alpha track radon detectors. The values range from 40 to 890 pCi/I air at a depth of 38 cm. The gross mean average is 360 pCi/I for the area for summer readings and 200 pCi/I for winter readings; both values are well over the average U.S. soil radon values of approximately 100 pCi/I. Analyses of soil uranium show a range in values of 1–6 ppm, with a mean of 3.1 ppm. Thorium values range from 3.3 to 28.8 ppm, and Th/U ratios range from 2.9 to 4.6.

These values for U, Th, and Th/U suggest that soil U and Th are close to the values reported for the Sandia granite, the source of most of the pediment on which Albuquerque is built. Soil infiltration rates range from ~6 × 10−4 to 4.5 × 10−3 cm/sec for the samples, and soil moisture content ranges from 1.4 to 7.2 percent. A fair correlation of summer soil radon with infiltration rate is noted. Correlation of soil radon with moisture content and/or with percent silt, silt + clay, clay size fraction material is not established by this study. Soil radon values do correlate with regions in the Albuquerque area where high indoor radon is common. A better correlation of high indoor radon values with soils developed immediately over bedrock is observed. Furthermore, all values of average soil and indoor radon increase significantly with proximity of the stations to the Sandia Mountains. Soil uranium also shows this trend. The data argue that regions of potentially high radon can thus be identified.

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References Cited

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Brookins, D.G. Correlation of soil radon and uranium with indoor radon in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. Environ. Geol. Water Sci 17, 209–217 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01701701

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Keywords

  • Radon
  • Infiltration Rate
  • Indoor Radon
  • Clay Size Fraction
  • Soil Radon