Effect on Radon Exhalation Rate Due to Cracks in Concrete

Magnus Döse 1  and Johan Silfwerbrand 2
  • 1 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Dept. of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Concrete Structures The Swedish Research Institute (RISE CBI), , 501 15, Borås, Sweden
  • 2 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Dept. of Civil & Architectural Engineering, , 100 44, Stockholm, Sweden


The second largest cause of lung cancer in the World is related to radon (222Rn) and its progenies in our environment. Building materials, such as concrete, contribute to the production of radon gas through the natural decay of 238U from its constituents. The Swedish Cement and Concrete Research Institute (CBI), part of RISE (Research Institute of Sweden AB), has examined the effects of cracks in concrete on two different concrete recipes where an Ordinary Portland Cement, OPC-CEM-I concrete (REF) and an OPC concrete including a hydrophobic additive (ADD) were addressed. Two concrete prisms from each concrete recipe were examined. The radon exhalation rate was measured in the pristine state and after concrete cracks had been induced into the concrete prisms. Measurements were performed with an ATMOS 33 ionizing pulsation chamber. The results indicate a strong influence of cracks on the radon exhalation rate. An increase in radon exhalation rate was calculated for every test prism. The increase in radon exhalation rate varied between 80 and 260 %. The crack apertures may play a significant role on the exhalation rate. The concrete prisms with the largest apertures (ADD) also generated the highest radon exhalation rates. The results imply that there could be a substantial variation in the exhalation rate, due to numerous factors, but nonetheless, the results should, raise the awareness of the impact cracks in concrete structures, may have on the final exhalation rate of radon. The exhalation rate of the recipe with an additive (ADD) also showed a lower exhalation rate than for the reference recipe (REF), when compared in a pristine state. This was in part expected. However, the effect of induced cracks and its aperture, seemingly trumps the effect that an additive may play on the radon exhalation rate, when cracks are induced.

The hypothesis is in part verified in view of the results of the prism for the ordinary Portland recipe (REF-prisms), were an increase of approximately 100 % would be expected due to the total surface increase. The results also indicate this. The major increase in the radon exhalation rate of the ordinary Portland recipe including an additive, implies however other factors, such as minor internal cracks, that may substantially contribute to the final exhalation rate.

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