We performed both a laboratory and a field intercomparison of two novel glass-based retrospective radon detectors previously used in major radon case-control studies performed in Missouri and Iowa. The new detectors estimate retrospective residential radon exposure from the accumulation of a long-lived radon decay product, 210Pb, in glass. The detectors use track registration material in direct contact with glass surfaces to measure the α-emission of a 210Pb-decay product, 210Po. The detector's track density generation rate (tracks per square centimeter per hour) is proportional to the surface α-activity. In the absence of other strong sources of α-emission in the glass, the implanted surface α-activity should be proportional to the accumulated 210Po, and hence to the cumulative radon gas exposure. The goals of the intercomparison were to a) perform collocated measurements using two different glass-based retrospective radon detectors in a controlled laboratory environment to compare their relative response to implanted polonium in the absence of environmental variation, b) perform collocated measurements using two different retrospective radon progeny detectors in a variety of residential settings to compare their detection of glass-implanted polonium activities, and c) examine the correlation between track density rates and contemporary radon gas concentrations. The laboratory results suggested that the materials and methods used by the studies produced similar track densities in detectors exposed to the same implanted 210Po activity. The field phase of the intercomparison found excellent agreement between the track density rates for the two types of retrospective detectors. The correlation between the track density rates and direct contemporary radon concentration measurements was relatively high, considering that no adjustments were performed to account for either the residential depositional environment or glass surface type. Preliminary comparisons of the models used to translate track rate densities to average long-term radon concentrations differ between the two studies. Further calibration of the retrospective detectors' models for interpretation of track rate density may allow the pooling of studies that use glass-based retrospective radon detectors to determine historic residential radon exposures.
Field RW, Steck DJ, Parkhurst MA, Mahaffey MA, Alavanja MCR. 1999. Intercomparison of retrospective radon detectors. Environmental Health Perspectives 107(11): 905-910.