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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 41  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 128-131  

Assessment of radioactivity level and radiological parameters in soil samples of Akalad, Thrissur District, Kerala

1 Department of Studies and Research in Physics, Payyanur College, Kannur, Kerala, India
2 Department of PG Studies in Physics, Mangalore University, Mangalagangotri, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission20-Jun-2018
Date of Decision23-Jul-2018
Date of Acceptance28-Aug-2018
Date of Web Publication19-Nov-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. V Prakash
Department of Studies and Research in Physics, Payyanur College, Kannur - 670 327, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/rpe.RPE_45_18

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Systematic studies on radiation level and distribution of radionuclides have been carried out using NaI(Tl) detector in different locations of Akalad region, Thrissur District, Kerala. The activity of naturally occurring radionuclides viz. 40K, 226Ra and 232Th in the samples collected from the region were measured and found to vary in the range 9.99±0.69 Bq kg-1 to 32.11±0.77 Bq kg-1 with a mean value 19.64 Bq kg-1; 2.15±0.21Bq kg-1 to 11.28±0.39 Bq kg-1 with a mean value 7.73 Bq kg-1 and 20.80±0.67 Bq kg-1 to 122.40±1.16 Bq kg-1 with a mean value 79.91 Bq kg-1 respectively. The radium equivalent activity varies within the range 39.26 Bq kg-1 to 178.85 Bq kg-1 with a mean value 123.51 Bq kg-1. The absorbed dose rate varies within the range 16.49 nGyh-1 to 79.14 nGyh-1 with a mean value 51.91 nGyh-1. The present systematic investigation indicates that the data are comparable with the reported values elsewhere and in most of the cases observed values were well within the permissible limit.

Keywords: 226Ra, 232Th, 40K, natural radioactivity, radiological parameters

How to cite this article:
Vineethkumar V, Prakash V, Narayana Y. Assessment of radioactivity level and radiological parameters in soil samples of Akalad, Thrissur District, Kerala. Radiat Prot Environ 2018;41:128-31

How to cite this URL:
Vineethkumar V, Prakash V, Narayana Y. Assessment of radioactivity level and radiological parameters in soil samples of Akalad, Thrissur District, Kerala. Radiat Prot Environ [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Dec 10];41:128-31. Available from: http://www.rpe.org.in/text.asp?2018/41/3/128/245798

  Introduction Top

Natural radionuclides are widely distributed in soil, rocks, and air. Assessment of natural radioactivity level in the environmental matrices has great importance because natural radiation is the largest contributor to the external dose to the world population.[1] The distribution and enrichment of radionuclides in various environmental matrices will also be different. There are few regions in the world, the radiation levels were found to be high and termed as high background radiation areas. Coastal Kerala is one of the important parts of the south-west coast of India and a known high background radiation area. In Kerala, especially the places in Kollam district, such as Chavara, Neendakara, Karunagapally, are reported as high background radiation areas.[2] Akalad is situated in Thrissur district, part of the coastal environment of Kerala. In view of this, an attempt was made to assess the radionuclide concentration of the soil samples collected from the environment of Akalad, and the results are discussed in the paper. Radium equivalent activity and radiological parameters due to natural radiation exposure were also identified and discussed in the light of reported literature values.

  Materials and Methods Top

Sample collection and preparation

For the present study, different sampling locations from Akalad region that showed high activity compared with the normal background area read on a portable plastic scintillometer were chosen. Soil samples were collected from 10 different locations in and around the Akalad region following standard procedures.[3] About 2 kg of samples were collected from a depth of 10–30 cm in a polythene bag from each sampling locations and were brought to the laboratory for further analysis. The samples were cleaned and air dried at room temperature in open air. Then, the samples were dried in an oven at 110°C for 24 h to remove the moisture contents. The processed samples were then sieved through 250 μm mesh and kept in airtight standard geometry plastic containers of 250 ml capacity, for 30 days to prevent the escape of radiogenic gases radon (222Rn) and thoron (220Rn) and to allow radioactive equilibrium with their corresponding progeny.[4] The samples were then analyzed following standard techniques.

Experimental details

The exact net weight of the samples were determined using electronic balance before taken for the analysis. Each sample weighing about 275 g was subjected to gamma spectrometric analysis using high efficiency 5 cm × 5 cm NaI (Tl) based gamma-ray spectrometer. The spectrometer was calibrated using RG-U, RG-Th, and RG-K, as standard sources. These are standards sources for Uranium, Thorium, and Potassium, procured from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. The full-width half-maximum was 60.78 KeV with resolution 8.46%, for the 137Cs (661 KeV) peak. The detector was shielded with lead blocks of size 6” × 3” × 1.75”, to reduce the counts due to terrestrial gamma-ray radiations. The samples were counted for sufficiently long time (40,000 s) to reduce the counting error using GSPEC software (Amcrys, Nauki Ave, Kharkov, Ukrain) to obtain the gamma-ray spectrum with good statistics. The concentration of radionuclides, namely, 40K, 226Ra and 232Th in the samples was determined from the counts obtained. The 226Ra radionuclide was estimated from 1764 KeV (15.9%) gamma peaks of 214Bi. 232Th was estimated using 2614 KeV (35.8%) gamma transition of 208Tl. 40K radionuclide was estimated using 1460.8 KeV (10.7%) gamma peak from 40K itself to determine the concentration of 40K in different samples.[5],[6] The spectra are analyzed for the photopeak of radium, thorium daughter products, and potassium.

In the present study, simultaneous equation method was used for the analysis of the spectrum and to determine the activity concentrations of radionuclides.[7]

C1 = T2.61

C2 = T1.76-F1C1

C3 = T1.46-F2C3-F3C2

Here, C1, C2, and C3 are the compton-corrected and background-subtracted counts under the photopeaks of 232Th, 226Ra, and 40K and T2.61,T1.76 and T1.46 are the total integral count under the photopeaks of 208Tl, 214Bi 40K, respectively, and F1,F2, and F3 are Compton contribution factors of 232Th on 226Ra, 232Th on 40K and 226Ra on 40K, respectively.[8]

From the compton-corrected count, the activity (A, Bq/kg) of 40K, 226Ra and 232Th were estimated, using the given relation.

Where, C is the compton-corrected count rate under the photopeak, SD is the standard deviation, E is the photopeak efficiency (%) of the detector, a is the abundance of characteristic gamma-ray, and W is the weight of the sample in grams.

In the coastal regions of Kerala, a wide variation in the radiation level has been observed. To obtain uniformity in the exposure, total activity was calculated regarding radium equivalent activity (Raeq) from the given relation.[9]

Raeq = ARa + 1.43 ATh + 0.077 AK

Where, ARa, ATh, and AK are the specific activities of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K expressed in Bq/kg. Radium equivalent concept allows a single index or number and is widely used hazard index to describe the gamma output from different mixers of uranium, thorium, and potassium in the samples.[10]

Absorbed dose rate due to gamma radiations in the air at 1 m above ground level for the uniform distribution of naturally occurring nuclides was calculated from the given equation.[11]

D = 0.462 CRa + 0.604 CTh + 0.0042 CK

Where D is absorbed dose rate in nGyh−1 and CRa, CTh, and CK are the activities of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K in the samples expressed in Bq/kg.

The annual effective dose rate is determined by considering the conversion coefficient from absorbed dose in air to effective dose as 0.7 SvGy−1 with indoor and outdoor occupancy of 80% and 20%, respectively.[12] It is calculated from the given equation.

Indoor (mSv) = D (nGyh−1) × 8760 × 0.8 × 0.7 (SvGy−1)

Outdoor (mSv) = D (nGyh−1) × 8760 × 0.2 × 0.7 (SvGy−1)

The external gamma index, due to the emitted gamma rays, from the sand samples were calculated, using the relation.[13]

Hex= (ARa/370 Bq/kg) + (ATh/259 Bq/kg) + (AK/4810 Bq/kg) ≤1

The internal gamma index factor was calculated to assess the radiation exposure due to radon and its short-lived daughter products, which are hazardous to respiratory organs.[14] The internal exposure to radon and its daughter products is quantified by internal exposure index which is given by the equation:

Hin= (ARa/185 Bq/kg) + (ATh/259 Bq/kg) + (AK/4810 Bq/kg) ≤1

Where, ARa, ATh, and AK are activity concentration of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K, in Bq/kg.

  Results and Discussion Top

[Table 1] represents the activity concentration of 40K, 226Ra, and 232Th in the collected samples. The activity of radionuclides, namely, 40K, 226Ra, and 232Th found to vary in the range 9.99 ± 0.69–32.11 ± 0.77 Bq/kg with a mean value 19.64 Bq/kg; 2.15 ± 0.21–11.28 ± 0.39 Bq/kg with a mean value 7.73 Bq/kg and 20.8 ± 0.67–122.4 ± 1.16 Bq/kg with a mean value 79.9 Bq/kg, respectively. The result obtained in the present study reveals that the activity concentration of 40K and 226Ra is lower and the activity concentration of 232Th is higher than the Indian average values (Indian average values of 40K, 226Ra and 232Th is 400, 28.67, and 63.83 Bq/kg, respectively).[1] The activity concentration of 40K and 226Ra is lower and activity concentration of 232Th is higher than the world average values (World average values of 40K, 226Ra and 232Th is 420, 33 and 45 Bq/kg, respectively).[1] The radium equivalent activity varies within the range 39.26–178.85 Bq/kg with a mean value 123.51 Bq/kg. The average radium equivalent activity measured from the activity is well below the world average of 370 Bq/kg.
Table 1: Activity of 40K, 226Ra and 232Th

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[Table 2] represents the radiological parameters obtained from the radionuclide activities. The absorbed dose rate varies within the range 16.49–79.14 nGyh−1 with a mean value 51.91 nGyh−1 and is lower than the world average value of 57 nGyh−1. The indoor annual effective dose varies in the range 0.08-0.388 mSv with an average value 0.254 mSv and outdoor in the range 0.02-0.097 mSv with an average value 0.063 mSv. The average indoor annual effective dose was higher and the outdoor annual effective dose was lower than the world average value of 0.07 mSv.[1] The internal exposure index varies from 0.126-0.538 with an average value 0.354 and the external exposure index varies from 0.106 to o. 508 with a mean value 0.333. The values of internal and external exposure index were found to be less than unity.
Table 2: Radiological parameters

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  Conclusions Top

The concentrations of natural radionuclides have been determined using gamma-ray spectrometry and the radiological parameters, namely, radium equivalent activity, absorbed dose rate, annual effective dose (indoor and outdoor), exposure indices (internal and external) were calculated from the activity and compared with the Indian and World average values. The activity concentration of 40K and 226Ra is lower and the activity concentration of 232Th is higher than the permissible limit. The systematic analysis of the samples collected clearly indicates that 232Th is the major contributor for the activity concentration. The soils weathered from the rocks, which are rich in heavy metals and radioactive minerals can contribute to the enhanced level of 232Th activity. Industrial activities present in the region may also affects the radioactivity levels in the region. The contribution of 226Ra to the total dose is very low compared to 40K and 232Th for the activity concentration in the samples. The wide variation in the radionuclides activity concentration is influenced by geological and geochemical processes. The values obtained for the radiological parameters were well within the recommended safety limits except for the indoor annual effective dose rates. More systematic analysis is needed to understand the various processes influencing the activity concentration.


The first author wishes to acknowledge the UGC, New Delhi, for providing financial support as JRF to carry out the present investigation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. United Nations, New York: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation; 2000.  Back to cited text no. 1
Soniya SR, Monica S, Visnu Prasad AK, Jojo PJ. Heterology of radioactivity in soil from Varkala, Kerala. J Pure Appl Phys 2017;13:209-14.  Back to cited text no. 2
Herbert LV, de Planque G, editors. EML Procedure Manual. 26th ed. New York, Environmental Measurement Laboratory; 1983.  Back to cited text no. 3
Shetty PK, Narayana Y, Rajashekara KM. Depth profile study of natural radionuclides in the environment of coastal Kerala. J Radiational Nucl Chem 2011;290:159-63.  Back to cited text no. 4
Alnour IA, Wagiram H, Ibrahim M, Laili Z, Omar M, Hamzah S. Natural radioactivity measurements in the granite rock of quarry sites, Johor, Malaysia. Radiat Phys Chem 2012;81:1842-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
Prakash MM, Kaliprasad CS, Narayana Y. Studies on natural radioactivity in rocks of Coorg district, Karnataka state, India. J Radiat Res Appl Sci 2017;10:128-34.  Back to cited text no. 6
Mehra R, Singh S, Singh K, Sonkawade R 226Ra, 232Th and 40K analysis in soil samples from some areas of Malwa region, Punjab, India using gamma ray spectrometry. Environ Monit Assess 2007;134:333-42.  Back to cited text no. 7
Venunathan N, Kaliprasad CS, Narayana Y. Natural radioactivity in sediments and river bank soil of Kallada river of Kerala, South India and associated radiological risk. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 2016;171:271-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
Ramola C, Rautela BS, Gusain GS, Yadhav M, Sahoo SK, Shinji T. Natural radionuclide analysis in Chattarpur area of south eastern area of Odisha, India. Acta Geophys 2013;61:1038-45.  Back to cited text no. 9
Ramasamy V, Sundarrajan M, Paramasivam K, Meenakshisundaram V, Suresh G. Assessment of spatial distribution and radiological hazardous nature of radionuclides in high background radiation area, Kerala, India. Appl Radiat Isot 2013;73:21-31.  Back to cited text no. 10
Thabayneh KM, Jazzar MM. Radioactivity levels in plant samples in Tulkarem district, Palestine and its impact on human health. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 2013;153:467-74.  Back to cited text no. 11
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. United Nations, New York: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation; 1993.  Back to cited text no. 12
Beretka J, Matthew PJ. Natural radioactivity of Australian building materials, industrial wastes and by-products. Health Phys 1985;48:87-95.  Back to cited text no. 13
Al-Saleh FS, Al-Berzan B. Measurement of natural radioactivity in some kinds of Marble and Granite used in Riyadh region. J Nucl Radiat Phys 2007;2:25-36.  Back to cited text no. 14


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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