Radon transfer from groundwater used in showers to indoor air

David S. Vinson, Ted R. Campbell, Avner Vengosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Estimation of Rn transfer from water to indoor air based on multi-day measurements may underestimate alpha exposure that occurs at short time scales in confined spaces, such as from showering, in houses with high Rn activities in the water supply. In order to examine one such incremental increase in exposure, variations in Rn in water and indoor air in 18 houses with private wells in western North Carolina (USA) were investigated. Radon in well water ranged from 158 to 811 Bq L-1 (median 239 Bq L-1). After 20-min showers in bathrooms with closed doors, peak Rn in air increases (above background) ranged from 71 to 4420 Bq m-3 (median 1170 Bq m-3). Calculated transfer coefficients at the scale of a 40-min closed bathroom (20-min shower plus 20 min post-shower) are described by a lognormal distribution whose geometric mean exceeds the widely-used ∼10-4 whole-house transfer coefficient by about one order of magnitude. As short-lived decay products grow from shower-derived Rn, short-term alpha energy exposure occurs in bathrooms in addition to the exposure caused by Rn mixed throughout the volume of the house. Due to the increasing ratio of Rn decay products to Rn, alpha energy exposure is greatest several minutes after the shower is turned off. For a 7.2-min shower with 10 min of additional exposure before opening the door, a geometric mean 5.6% increase in exposure over the ∼10-4 whole-house transfer coefficient derived from longer measurement periods was estimated. In addition to Rn activity in water, short-term shower exposure to Rn progeny depends on exposure time, ventilation, attachment and deposition, among other variable factors that characterize individual houses and residents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2676-2685
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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