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Radon Concentration in Tbilisi


Study of Spatial and Time Distribution of Radon Concentration in Air and Water throughout Tbilisi Urban Environment - Homes, Schools, Commercial and Public Buildings

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-APC/Air Pollution and Control/Environment
  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Tbilisi State University, Georgia, Tbilisi


  • Kyushu University, Japan, Fukuoka\nComenius University, Slovakia, Bratislava\nUniversity of Quebec / Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Canada, QC, Ste Foy\nIdaho State University / Environmental Monitoring Laboratory, USA, ID, Pocatello

Project summary

1. Introduction and Overview

The proposed project is based on the recommendations of a number of institutions (UNECE, IAEA, ICRP, US EPA, US NAS, IARC) and its aim is to study the spatial and time distribution of 222Rn (radon) concentrations of air and water in homes, schools, public and commercial buildings throughout the Tbilisi urban environment.

Radon is an inert radioactive gas resulting from the decay of 226Ra. The latter is produced in the decay of 238U, which is present in most soils. Radon diffuses from the soils and may contaminate indoor air by infiltrate housing foundations. In addition, radon emanates from tap and mineral waters enriched by radium/radon at places of their origin such that indoor radon concentrations may be increased. According to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, radon is classified as a Class A known human carcinogen [Man Made Mineral Fibers and Radon. IARC, 1988]. At the same time, radon is responsible for approximately three-fourths of annual personal effective dose from terrestrial ionising radiation and approximately half of annual personal effective dose from all natural sources of ionising radiation [Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. UN, 2000].

The risk of lung cancer from radon is related to both the radon level and the exposure time. Information from the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists states that epidemiological studies have shown that small exposures due to indoor radon over a longer period of time may present a greater risk than larger exposures in a shorter time period. Therefore, increasing attention has been paid to exposure to radon and its associated health risks in both industrialized and developing countries [Radiation Protection against Radon in Workplaces other than Mines. IAEA, 2003]. "One of the surprising developments in recent years has been the finding that in many homes the concentration of radon (and its decay products) is so high as to involve potential risks far greater then those from many other pollution hazards that have attracted attention." [Eisenbud M., Gesell T.F. Environmental Radioactivity. 1997].

Furthermore several international, national regulatory and public bodies (e.g. IAEA, EPA, AARST) recommend: Testing of homes, schools, public and commercial buildings in high radon areas as the first priority; Establishing the Action Level for radon concentration in residences of 4 pCi/L, etc.

The proposed project is an urgent priority because of the following factors:

1. "Georgia is a country with potentially high radon exposure as there are geological formations with a high uranium content, and many buildings are constructed with local materials. … The main potential health effect of exposure to radon is lung cancer. … Although both the <Georgia's> National Environmental Health Action Plan and the <Georgia's> National Health Policy include radon exposure surveys, monitoring still has to be initiated. The lack of monitoring equipment is a problem that has to be resolved. Currently, there are practically no data on radon concentrations in Georgian homes." [UNECE Environmental Performance Review of Georgia 2003]. Also, according to the Georgian Ministry of Labor, and Social Protection, the occurrences of respiratory system malignancies amount to the highest percentage among other cancers in Georgian population. In 2002 new occurrences of respiratory system malignancies among men amount 32.1%. This exceeds percentage of other cancers by a significant quantity [Health Protection. Georgia 2002]. Without the proper determination of radon concentrations it is impossible to hypothesize the contribution of radon to this effect.

2. The measurements carried out by the Radiocarbon and Low-Level Counting Section (R&LLC) of I.Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) in densely populated historic district of Tbilisi (Sololaki), built up at the hillside by one- and two-storied dwellings, revealing the radon concentration of 1.5-2 times more than US EPA Action Level of 4 pCi/L.

The R&LLC of I.Javakhishvili TSU, the executor of the presented project, by uniting former weapons scientists, young researchers and supporting personnel, is able to perform the project activities and present their results appropriately. The prerequisites of the R&LLC capabilities to administer such a project are demonstrated by the following:

In 1970-1980 R&LLC researchers studied expansion of the agents, resulted from nuclear weapons testing in atmosphere, in environment and influence of these agents on living organisms, also, influence of super-mutagens on vital functions.

In 1980-1990, in cooperation with colleagues from Nuclear Physics Chair of Comenius University (Bratislava, Slovakia), R&LLC researchers studied causal phenomena influencing time variations of tritium and radiocarbon from natural and anthropogenic sources [Povinec P.P. et al. Radiocarbon, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1989. pp. 771-776].

In 1997-2003 R&LLC researchers took part with success in the RER/2/003 project, "Marine Environmental Assessment of the Black Sea Region". This project was administered by the Technical Cooperation Department of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [Marine Environmental Assessment of the Black Sea. IAEA, 2004]. Within the frame of this project, R&LLC was equipped by modern stationery and mobile gamma-spectrometers and R&LLC researchers received advanced training in various international research centres in the field of application Nuclear Analytical Techniques to environmental studies.

In 1999 R&LLC was involved in BfS-Berlin Intercomparison-1999 [Ringversuch 4/1999. BfS, Berlin, 2002]. In 2003-2004 R&LLC took part in BfS-Berlin Intercomparison-2003 [Ringversuch 1/2003. BfS, Berlin, 2004].

In 1999-2000 R&LLC executed IAEA Technical Contract No.10607 "The collection of sediment and biota samples from the river Kura and from the south-west Caspian Sea and gamma-spectrometric analysis of the collected samples" [Povinec P.P. et al. Deep-Sea Research II, 50 (2003). pp. 2835–2846].

In 1999-2002, R&LLC carried out independent radioecological examination by request of various academic, governmental, public and commercial institutions.

In 2002-2003 R&LLC represented TSU in research consortium of various US Universities and National Laboratories established within the framework of Advanced Accelerator Applications-Dose Conversion Coefficients project of US Department of Energy [Eckerman K. et al. Procedures and Quality Assurance for Calculating Dose Coefficients Using DCAL Software. Health Physics (in press); Eckerman K. et al. An Interdatabase Comparison of Nuclear Decay and Structure Data Utilized in the Calculation of Dose Coefficients for Radionuclides. Health Physics (in press)].

Since 2003, R&LLC in cooperation with Environmental Monitoring Laboratory at Idaho State University (Pocatello ID, U.S.A.) carries out on a voluntary basis independent radioecological monitoring in separate regions of Georgia using electret ionisation chambers (EIC) and in situ gamma-spectrometry with HPGe detector.

2. Expected Results and their Application

Research activities within the framework of the proposed project belong to both basic and applied research in the field of radioecology. Successful implementation of the project with the display of spatial and time distribution of radon concentration in water and air throughout Tbilisi urban environment (residences, schools, commercial and public buildings) will be obtained for the first time in Georgia. This also will improve the current situation in Georgia due to environmental protection and control by introduction of up-to-date radon testing technology.

Based on the data collected and recommendations of the UNECE Environmental Performance Review of Georgia 2003 regarding survey of indoor radon exposure, a strategy will be developed to minimize possible health effects.

In addition, according to the requirements of the chosen methodology for radon measurements, the gamma-radiation dose rate at test sites will be measured simultaneously with the radon concentration measurements. This will provide data for the comparison of existing information about gamma-radiation dose rate distribution in the Tbilisi urban environment and will be a useful supplemental data set for assessment of the potential risks to the public.

3. Meeting ISTC Goals and Objectives

Researchers and engineers from TSU, previously occupied with research activities by secret requests of former Soviet Union's Ministry of Defence, military-industrial establishment and Hydrometeorological service will comprise more than 50% of the project personnel and will be actively involved in the project activities. Such integration of former weapons scientists and engineers of TSU into the international scientific community should demonstrate the novel attributes of working within international partnerships to foster a safer environment. On level with the mentioned, introduction of modern radon testing technology will improve the current situation in Georgia in the field of radiation safety and control according one of the ISTC objectives.

Thus, efficient utilisation of former weapons scientists skills and experience within the frame of the presented project will serve for success of the ISTC objective – non-proliferation of technologies for mass destruction weapons, and for success of other ISTC objectives responsive to civil needs.

4. Scope of Activities

Activities within the framework of presented project are intended for duration of 27 months. The project shall be arranged to the following tasks:

Task 1. Initiation of the project management.

Task 2. Radon testing accompanied with gamma-radiation dose rate measurements in Tbilisi.

Task 3. Review and summarising of the obtained results.

Implementation of each task will be accompanied by presenting the following deliverables: Technical and financial status reports, data analysis reports, collaborator's review, publication in scientific periodicals.

5. Role of Foreign Collaborators/Partners

Collaborators involved with the proposed project (Dr. Thomas F. Gesell, Head of Environmental Monitoring Laboratory of Idaho State University; Dr. Alan Walton, Professor Invitee at the INRS, Quebec University; Dr. Pavel P. Povinec, Nuclear Physics Department of Comenius University, presently at IAEA-MEL, Monaco) will assist in the project execution in the selection of proper modern equipment, analysis and cross-checking of the results and the organization and participation of joint meetings and workshops.

This will ensure that the project activities will be implemented in a timely and organized fashion and also ensure the quality of the results.

6. Technical Approach and Methodology

For radon in air and water testing the E-PERM® Electret Ionisation Chambers will be used. Equipment handling, deployment, water sampling and testing and primary data collection will be performed according to the US EPA Protocols for Radon and Radon Decay Product Measurements in Homes (EPA 402-R-92-003, May 1993), Indoor Radon and Radon Decay Product Measurement Device Protocols (EPA 402-R-92-004, July 1992) and E-PERM® manufacturer's (Rad Elec Inc.) E-PERM® System Manual – Radon and Radiation Measurements.

Gamma-radiation dose rate measurements at the test sites will be carried out using autonomous data logging probe GammaTRACER, E-PERM® gamma dose rate monitors and in-situ gamma spectrometry using HPGe detector. Samples of soils and materials at selected test sites will be taken as required to be analysed by low-background gamma-spectrometer. Gamma-radiation dose rate measurements will be carried out according to the US DOE EML Procedures Manual HASL-300 28th Edition, ICRU Report 53 Gamma-Ray Spectrometry in the Environment and manufacturer's manuals.

The final data analysis will be performed according to standard statistical methods.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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