Indoor radon measurements in south west England explained by topsoil and stream sediment geochemistry, airborne gamma-ray spectroscopy and geology

Antonio Ferreira*, Zornitza Daraktchieva, David Beamish, Charles Kirkwood, T. Robert Lister, Mark Cave, Joanna Wragg, Kathryn Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Predictive mapping of indoor radon potential often requires the use of additional datasets. A range of geological, geochemical and geophysical data may be considered, either individually or in combination. The present work is an evaluation of how much of the indoor radon variation in south west England can be explained by four different datasets: a) the geology (G), b) the airborne gamma-ray spectroscopy (AGR), c) the geochemistry of topsoil (TSG) and d) the geochemistry of stream sediments (SSG). The study area was chosen since it provides a large (197,464) indoor radon dataset in association with the above information. Geology provides information on the distribution of the materials that may contribute to radon release while the latter three items provide more direct observations on the distributions of the radionuclide elements uranium (U), thorium (Th) and potassium (K). In addition, (c) and (d) provide multi-element assessments of geochemistry which are also included in this study. The effectiveness of datasets for predicting the existing indoor radon data is assessed through the level (the higher the better) of explained variation (% of variance or ANOVA) obtained from the tested models. A multiple linear regression using a compositional data (CODA) approach is carried out to obtain the required measure of determination for each analysis. Results show that, amongst the four tested datasets, the soil geochemistry (TSG, i.e. including all the available 41 elements, 10 major – Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, Si, Ti - plus 31 trace) provides the highest explained variation of indoor radon (about 40%); more than double the value provided by U alone (ca. 15%), or the sub composition U, Th, K (ca. 16%) from the same TSG data. The remaining three datasets provide values ranging from about 27% to 32.5%. The enhanced prediction of the AGR model relative to the U, Th, K in soils suggests that the AGR signal captures more than just the U, Th and K content in the soil. The best result is obtained by including the soil geochemistry with geology and AGR (TSG + G + AGR, ca. 47%). However, adding G and AGR to the TSG model only slightly improves the prediction (ca. +7%), suggesting that the geochemistry of soils already contain most of the information given by geology and airborne datasets together, at least with regard to the explanation of indoor radon. From the present analysis performed in the SW of England, it may be concluded that each one of the four datasets is likely to be useful for radon mapping purposes, whether alone or in combination with others. The present work also suggest that the complete soil geochemistry dataset (TSG) is more effective for indoor radon modelling than using just the U (+Th, K) concentration in soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-171
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is published with the permission of the Executive Director, British Geological Survey and with the permission of the Public Health England. The authors thank to the 2 anonymous reviewers for useful comments and suggestions that certainly improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Natural Environment Research Council


  • Airborne gamma-ray
  • Analysis of variance
  • Compositional data
  • Geology
  • Indoor radon
  • Stream sediment geochemistry
  • Topsoil geochemistry


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