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Inhalation exposures due to radon and thoron ((222)Rn and (220)Rn): Do they differ in high and normal background radiation areas in India?


In India, High Background Radiation Areas (HBRAs) due to enhanced levels of naturally occurring radionuclides in soil (thorium and, to a lesser extent, uranium), are located along some parts of the coastal tracts viz. the coastal belt of Kerala, Tamilnadu and Odisha. It is conjectured that these deposits will result in higher emissions of radon isotopes ((222)Rn and (220)Rn) and their daughter products as compared to Normal Background Radiation Areas (NBRAs). While the annual external dose rates contributed by gamma radiations in these areas are about 5-10 times higher, the extent of increase in the inhalation dose rates attributable to (222)Rn and (220)Rn and their decay products is not well quantified. Towards this, systematic indoor surveys were conducted wherein simultaneous measurements of time integrated (222)Rn and (220)Rn gas and their decay product concentrations was carried out in around 800 houses in the HBRAs of Kerala and Odisha to estimate the inhalation doses. All gas measurements were carried out using pin-hole cup dosimeters while the progeny measurements were with samplers and systems based on the Direct radon/thoron Progeny sensors (DRPS/DTPS). To corroborate these passive measurements of decay products concentrations, active sampling was also carried out in a few houses. The results of the surveys provide a strong evidence to conclude that the inhalation doses due to (222)Rn and (220)Rn gas and their decay products in these HBRAs are in the same range as observed in the NBRAs in India.