Predictive analysis and mapping of indoor radon concentrations in Switzerland


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Predictive analysis and mapping of indoor radon concentrations in Switzerland
Kropat G.
Bochud F.
Baechler S.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Faculté de biologie et de médecine Université de Lausanne CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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It is estimated that around 230 people die each year due to radon (222Rn) exposure in Switzerland. 222Rn occurs mainly in closed environments like buildings and originates primarily from the subjacent ground. Therefore it depends strongly on geology and shows substantial regional variations. Correct identification of these regional variations would lead to substantial reduction of 222Rn exposure of the population based on appropriate construction of new and mitigation of already existing buildings. Prediction of indoor 222Rn concentrations (IRC) and identification of 222Rn prone areas is however difficult since IRC depend on a variety of different variables like building characteristics, meteorology, geology and anthropogenic factors.
The present work aims at the development of predictive models and the understanding of IRC in Switzerland, taking into account a maximum of information in order to minimize the prediction uncertainty. The predictive maps will be used as a decision-support tool for 222Rn risk management. The construction of these models is based on different data-driven statistical methods, in combination with geographical information systems (GIS).
In a first phase we performed univariate analysis of IRC for different variables, namely the detector type, building category, foundation, year of construction, the average outdoor temperature during measurement, altitude and lithology. All variables showed significant associations to IRC. Buildings constructed after 1900 showed significantly lower IRC compared to earlier constructions. We observed a further drop of IRC after 1970. In addition to that, we found an association of IRC with altitude. With regard to lithology, we observed the lowest IRC in sedimentary rocks (excluding carbonates) and sediments and the highest IRC in the Jura carbonates and igneous rock. The IRC data was systematically analyzed for potential bias due to spatially unbalanced sampling of measurements. In order to facilitate the modeling and the interpretation of the influence of geology on IRC, we developed an algorithm based on k-medoids clustering which permits to define coherent geological classes in terms of IRC. We performed a soil gas 222Rn concentration (SRC) measurement campaign in order to determine the predictive power of SRC with respect to IRC. We found that the use of SRC is limited for IRC prediction.
The second part of the project was dedicated to predictive mapping of IRC using models which take into account the multidimensionality of the process of 222Rn entry into buildings. We used kernel regression and ensemble regression tree for this purpose. We could explain up to 33% of the variance of the log transformed IRC all over Switzerland. This is a good performance compared to former attempts of IRC modeling in Switzerland. As predictor variables we considered geographical coordinates, altitude, outdoor temperature, building type, foundation, year of construction and detector type. Ensemble regression trees like random forests allow to determine the role of each IRC predictor in a multidimensional setting. We found spatial information like geology, altitude and coordinates to have stronger influences on IRC than building related variables like foundation type, building type and year of construction. Based on kernel estimation we developed an approach to determine the local probability of IRC to exceed 300 Bq/m3. In addition to that we developed a confidence index in order to provide an estimate of uncertainty of the map. All methods allow an easy creation of tailor-made maps for different building characteristics.
Our work is an essential step towards a 222Rn risk assessment which accounts at the same time for different architectural situations as well as geological and geographical conditions. For the communication of 222Rn hazard to the population we recommend to make use of the probability map based on kernel estimation. The communication of 222Rn hazard could for example be implemented via a web interface where the users specify the characteristics and coordinates of their home in order to obtain the probability to be above a given IRC with a corresponding index of confidence. Taking into account the health effects of 222Rn, our results have the potential to substantially improve the estimation of the effective dose from 222Rn delivered to the Swiss population.
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23/02/2015 9:45
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20/08/2019 15:47
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