Radiation from Building Materials

We are all exposed daily to small amounts of radiation from natural sources of radioactive material. Much of this natural radiation comes from radioactive materials in building materials and in soil in the environment.

Image of red brick wall

What building materials contain radioactive material?

Some building materials contain low levels of radioactive material. Building materials that are made up of sandstone, concrete, brick, natural stone, gypsum, or granite are most likely to emit low levels of radiation.

Radioactive materials in sandstone, concrete, brick, natural stone, gypsum, and granite contain naturally-occurring radioactive elements like radium, uranium, and thorium. These naturally-occurring elements can break down or decay into the radioactive gas radon. Depending on the amount of these materials present, they may also cause small increases in radiation levels. Amounts (doses) of radiation in building materials depend on the type and amounts of materials used.

How much radiation exposure can I get from building materials?

Building materials that are made up of sandstone, concrete, brick, natural stone, gypsum, and granite are highly unlikely to contain radioactive material that will increase radiation dose above the low levels of background radiation we receive on a daily basis.

Radioactive material in building materials may add to indoor radon levels. However, radon is more likely to get into your home through cracks and holes in your foundation (underneath the home) or private well water (groundwater). Elevated indoor radon levels may pose a risk to human health.

You can test your building to make sure there are safe levels of radon.

For more information on Radon and getting your building tested for radon, click here

What is the risk from radiation found in building materials?

For the most part, the levels of radioactive materials found in building materials are very low. These low levels of radioactive material, and the radiation emitted by them, are unlikely to harm human health.

In certain cases, radioactive radon gas may be released from building materials, and you may need to take steps to protect yourself. If you are concerned about the levels of radon in your home, get it tested.