The influence of geological factors on radon risk in groundwater and dwellings in the region of Amarante (Northern Portugal)

Abstract

The region of Amarante (Northern Portugal) is composed of Hercynian tardi-tectonics granites and Paleozoic metasediments. Petrographic observations and SEM studies show that uranium is mainly contained within the rock in heavy accessory minerals such as apatite, zircon, monazite, uraninite, thorite and thorianite. The geological, geochemical and radiological data obtained suggest that the radon concentrations in dwellings of the studied area are mainly related with the uranium content of the rocks. Indeed, the highest contents were observed in granite AT2 of Padronelo (18.2 ppm) and the granite AT1 of Telões (10.3 ppm), with metasediments showing much lower uranium contents of 1.6 ppm; radon concentrations were evaluated in dwellings, using CR-39 passive detectors, and the results obtained in winter conditions suggest that the most productive geological units are the granites AT2 and AT1, with geometric means of 430 and 220 Bq/m3, respectively, while the metasediments show the lowest value of 85 Bq/m3. Some moderate radiometric anomalies, where uranium contents can double typical background values, were found in relation with specific fault systems of the region affecting granitic rocks, thus increasing radon risk; this is an indication of uranium mobility, likely resulting from the leaching of primary mineral supports as uraninite. Groundwater radionuclide contents show a wide range of results, with the highest activities related with granitic lithologies: 2,295 Bq/l for radon, 0.83 Bq/l for gross α and 0.71 Bq/l for gross β, presenting metasediments much lower values, in good agreement with other results obtained. Absorbed dose measured with gamma spectrometers in direct contact with the rocks is directly related with the uranium contents of the rocks, and thus works as a fast proxy for radon risk. It is concluded that radon risk is moderate to high in the granitic areas of the Amarante region and low in the metasediments of the same region.

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Correspondence to M. E. P. Gomes.

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Martins, L.M.O., Gomes, M.E.P., Neves, L.J.P.F. et al. The influence of geological factors on radon risk in groundwater and dwellings in the region of Amarante (Northern Portugal). Environ Earth Sci 68, 733–740 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-012-1774-0

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Keywords

  • Radon
  • Geochemistry
  • Uranium
  • Amarante