The value of Seasonal Correction Factors in assessing the health risk from domestic radon - a case study in Northamptonshire, UK

Denman, A.R., Crockett, R.G.M., Groves-Kirkby, C.J., Phillips, P.S., Gillmore, G.K. and Woolridge, A.C. (2007) The value of Seasonal Correction Factors in assessing the health risk from domestic radon - a case study in Northamptonshire, UK. Environment International, 33(1), pp. 34-44. ISSN (print) 0160-4120


Following an intensive survey of domestic radon levels in the United Kingdom (UK), the former National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), now the Radiation Protection Division of the Health Protection Agency (HPA-RPD), established a measurement protocol and promulgated Seasonal Correction Factors applicable to the country as a whole. Radon levels in the domestic built environment are assumed to vary systematically and repeatably during the year, being generally higher in winter. The Seasonal Correction Factors therefore comprise a series of numerical multipliers, which convert a 1-month or 3-month radon concentration measurement, commencing in any month of the year, to an effective annual mean radon concentration. In a recent project undertaken to assess the utility of short-term exposures in quantifying domestic radon levels, a comparative assessment of a number of integrating detector types was undertaken, with radon levels in 34 houses on common geology monitored over a 12-month period using dose-integrating track-etch detectors exposed in pairs (one upstairs, one downstairs) at 1-month and 3-month resolution. Seasonal variability of radon concentrations departed significantly from that expected on the basis of the HPA-RPD Seasonal Correction Factor set, with year-end discontinuities at both 1-month and 3-month measurement resolutions. Following this study, monitoring with electrets was continued in four properties, with weekly radon concentration data now available for a total duration in excess of three and a half years. Analysis of this data has permitted the derivation of reliable local Seasonal Correction Factors. Overall, these are significantly lower than those recommended by HPA-RPD, but are comparable with other results from the UK and from abroad, particularly those that recognise geological diversity and are consequently prepared on a regional rather than a national basis. This finding calls into question the validity of using nationally aggregated Seasonal Correction Factors, especially for shorter exposures, and the universal applicability of these corrections is discussed in detail.

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