As one of the most important parameters to express radiation's harmful effects is excess lifetime cancer risk, which is presented in the literature with the empirical relationship, an alternative association was developed for excess lifetime cancer risk in this study. This relationship included radiological risk parameters and the average life expectancy and also does not require a coefficient recommended by organizations. The selected area is Çünür district of Isparta province in Türkiye, which is approximately 12.5 km2. The gamma-ray spectrometry studies were carried out at 270 different points. In this study, the radioactive elements (U, Th, and K) are directly measured on the geological materials (trachyandesite, flysch, limestone, and soil) using a gamma-ray spectrometer device. Maps were created to compare the outcomes of excess lifetime cancer risk determined with the new approach and calculated using the existing relationship in the literature. Also, the calculated radiological risk parameters were mapped to evaluate the study area in general. In addition to these, the relationships between each other radioactive elements and the relationships between the radioactive elements and the radiological risk parameters were investigated.
Natural radiation is present in the world we live in. This radiation is caused mainly by radioactive elements that are present in the rocks around us and cosmic radiation from space. In addition to natural radiation, there is also radiation from technological devices. Radiation from natural and technological origins is expressed as background radiation. The level of background radiation varies depending on the concentration values of the radioactive elements in the rock and soil surrounding us. Particularly, the people living in volcanic areas are exposed to more background radiation than in other regions. In addition, the soil is formed in volcanic regions as a result of the sedimentation of erupted rocks and ash during the activities of volcanism as well as a result of fragmentation and transport of volcanic rocks under geological conditions. Therefore, there are radioactive elements formed in the soil. Hence, natural radiation levels of soil or rocks in settlements should be determined for human health. According to UNSCEAR , the surface gamma radiation and the maximum acceptable dose rate originating from terrestrial gamma rays range from 24 to 160 and 55 nGy/h, respectively. Many studies, especially on volcanic rocks, show that gamma radiation is considerably higher than the values given in UNSCEAR [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11]. In addition, many studies have obtained very high gamma radiation in the soil, which is formed as a result of the disintegration and transport of these volcanic rocks [12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20].
Uyanık et al. emphasized that natural radioactive measurements on volcanic rocks are important for human health and should be used primarily in the preference of settlements, especially in volcanic regions . It is known that the best method to determine the concentration values of the natural radioactive elements in the rock and soil is radiometry. In many studies, the active concentration values of radioactive elements obtained using this method and the radiological risks calculated from these values are presented [3,21,22,23,24,25]. In addition to these radiological risks, serious health problems can be encountered in the environment we live in and especially in volcanic regions that are close to the rocks where radioactive elements are concentrated. It was stated that there may be many diseases such as different types of cancers, tooth fractures, hair loss, cataracts in the eyes, and anemia in terms of human health in areas where radioactive elements are abundant . In addition, it was also found that humans living in a region with an abundance of thorium elements could suffer from cancer diseases such as bones, liver, lungs, pancreas, kidneys, and leukemia . Gamma-ray spectrometry measurements were performed and the excess lifetime cancer risk was calculated due to radioactive elements in Turkey’s Kırklareli , in Malaysia-Penang , on sediments in the North of Pakistan , in sand from the northern and eastern regions of Kuwait , in the soil in Abu Al Khasib and Ad Dayr in Basrah governorates , in Kadıköy and Üsküdar districts of Istanbul province of Turkey , along the Port Said coastline , in Çekmeköy district of Istanbul province of Turkey , and Afyon province of Turkey . As a result, gamma rays travel longer than alpha and beta rays, and since gamma rays can pass through the human body, they are harmful to human health.
In this study, the excess lifetime cancer risk was determined by using a new approach. To compare the results of the excess lifetime cancer risk, both this new approach and calculated from the existing relationship, in situ gamma-ray spectrometry measurements were performed in the Çünur district of the Isparta province of Türkiye and its surrounding. The concentration values of radioactive elements belonging to trachyandesite, flysch, limestone, and soil units that existed in the study area were obtained. The excess lifetime cancer risk and other radiological risk parameters were calculated using these concentration values. The excess lifetime cancer risk calculated from both relationships was compared for different geological units in the study area. All results were presented with micro-zoning maps and statistical evaluations.
2.1 Gamma-ray spectrometry
In the natural radioactivity measurements, a gamma-ray spectrometer device and a portable GF instrument equipped with a NaI (Tl) scintillation detector connected to 512 channels were used . With this device, the concentration values of natural radioactive elements (K, eU, eTh) can be determined, the artificial radiation source can be defined, the dose rate can be measured, and radiation can be monitored and mapped. In addition, useful studies can be conducted in raw material research, laboratory studies, and health services. Continuous or manual measurements can be made by connecting the GPS to the gamma-ray spectrometry device and transferring the measurement location to the device.
With the gamma-ray spectrometry instrument in the study area, the measurements of natural radioactive elements (40K, 238U, and 232Th) were performed at 270 locations in situ. About 37 of the measurements obtained were on trachyandesite, 30 on limestone, 10 on flysch, and 193 on the soil. The minimum, maximum, and mean activity concentration values of the radioactive elements obtained on these geological units in the study area are given in Table 1. Measurements in the field were made on the ground surface for 5 min. The study area is approximately 12.5 km2 and includes the campuses of Süleyman Demirel University and Isparta Applied Sciences University and Çünur district with a population of approximately 50,000.
2.2 Radiologic risk parameters
The concentration values of radioactive elements obtained in radiological risk studies are interpreted according to the world average values . In addition, radiological risk parameters are calculated by using the concentration values of these radioactive elements. The radiological risk parameters include absorbed gamma dose rate (D), annual effective dose rate (AEDR), radium equivalent activity (Raeq), and external radiation hazards (H ex). The equations of the radiological risk parameters are given as follows:
The activity concentration values of radioactive elements (40K, 232Th, 238U) in Bq/kg are used in the calculation of the radiological risk parameters given in equations (1)–(4) . A coefficient of 0.7 (Sv/Gy) in AEDR in equation (2) is used to convert the absorbed dose rate of gamma radiation into the AEDR. In addition, a coefficient of 0.2 is used assuming that a person spends 20% of the time (8,760 h/year) exposed to gamma rays for 365 days outside the house and its surroundings. Radioactive elements exist in different intensities in rocks or soils. Therefore, the radiological risk parameters calculated from these elements also vary. The world average values of radiological risk parameters are D = 59 nGy/h, AEDR = 0.07 mSv/year, Raeq = 109 Bq/kg, and H ex = 1 . In terms of radiological risk, H ex should be <1; otherwise, the living area is under radiological hazard. In addition to determining the radiological risk parameters, statistical relationships between radiological risk parameters and radioactive elements were determined.
2.3 Excess lifetime cancer risk and a new approach
Diseases such as cancer may occur in humans due to the harmful effects that occur when exposed to radiation doses originating from naturally radioactive elements for a long time. Therefore, the exceeding lifetime cancer risk (ELCR) can be expressed as that it is exposed to gamma radiation originating from the natural radioactive elements that exist in the rocks or soils in the area where a person lives. The ELCR value can be calculated using the following equation:
where ALD is expressed as the average life duration. The average life expectancy of people in Turkey is 79 years . RF is the risk of lethal cancer, and the RF value is given by ICRP 103 , by BEIR VII , and by ICRP-60  organizations as 57 × 10−6, 64 × 10−6, and 72 × 10−6 mSv−1, respectively. The ELCR values obtained from equation (5) using one of the RF values of different organizations can be expressed as %.
In this study, an alternative equation is proposed for the ELCR calculation. Instead of the RF coefficient suggested by different organizations used in equation (5), H ex and D parameters reflecting the radiological risk characteristics of the natural environment can be used. The environmental risk value of natural radioactivity originating from geological units is expressed by the H ex value, which is defined as the external index. This H ex value varies depending on the concentration values of the radioactive elements contained in the geological units, and the radiological risk values increase depending on the high H ex values. Therefore, H ex is considered a parameter that should be included in the cancer risk calculation. In addition, the gamma dose rate (D) calculated from the concentration values of the natural radioactive elements (K, Th, and U) in rocks and soils represents the main radiation source to which humans are exposed. It was also stated that a possible approach to estimate D due to the radionuclides contained in geological units is a theoretical calculation based on the concentrations of natural radionuclides in the soil . In addition, AEDR indicates the annual effective dose that a person will receive from terrestrial radiation if he spends all his time on a geological unit with K, Th, and U concentrations. Therefore, AEDR, D, and H ex parameters can be used in the calculation of cancer risk, as they represent the source of the radiation to which the human is exposed and the radiological risk it will create. In this case, the ELCR can be expressed by equation (6):
After the operations cancel each other out, the following equation is obtained, which is expressed as one in 10,000:
3 Study area and its geology
The study area is in Isparta province, which is located in Turkey, and the Çünür district and its surroundings (Figure 1). The study area covers an area of approximately 12.5 km2. There is a volcanic chimney called “Çünür Hill” in the study area. While the heights of the study area are approximately between 1,030 and 1,040 m, the height of the summit of Çünür Hill is around 1,090 m. Çünür Hill is approximately in the middle of the study area. Measurements were performed using the gamma-ray spectrometry device in 270 different locations, reflecting the radioactive properties of the geological units present in the study area (Figure 2). As can be seen in Figure 2, the surface boundaries of the geological units and the settlement areas on them are indicated with different colored lines. These boundaries are drawn for a better interpretation of all the maps made in the study. Also, this situation reveals the difference in the activity concentration values of radioactive elements in geological units.
The study area is tectonically located in the area called as Isparta angle. This area is under intense tectonic stress . The western part of the Isparta angle is bounded by the Burdur fault zone and the eastern part by the Akşehir fault zone. The central settlement of Isparta is generally on a flat plain. This plain is surrounded by Gölcük and Kayıköy formations, Yakaören tuffs, Söbüdağ, Bozanönü, and Davraz limestones. Çünür Hill, located in the center of the study area, is formed by the trachyandesite unit, which is a part of the Gölcük volcanic formation . This formation is generally composed of volcanic units such as andesite and trachyandesite, tuff, pumice, and volcanic ash . These volcanic units show a wide distribution in and around the Isparta Plain. The study area, Çünur Hill, and its vicinity are surrounded by Söbüdağ and Bozanönü limestones in the north and east, Kayıköy formation in the west, and sediments of the plain toward the south. The geology of the study area and its surroundings are presented in detail in Figure 1.
4 Evaluation results and discussions
As known, some igneous rock types have higher radionuclide content. Therefore, it may cause an increase in gamma dose rates inside and outside the living space. Apart from volcanic rocks, karstic limestone areas may also be areas where the radiological risk may vary locally, leading to strong natural radioactivity hotspots. In addition, sediment environments that may be enriched in uranium may also lead to increased radiological risk. Also, ground-related faults can promote subsurface radionuclide concentration and radon migration to the surface. Therefore, it is necessary to know the radionuclides contained in geological units and their distribution on the earth’s surface, as they are important for human life.
The distribution of radioactive elements in the study area and the relationships between these elements were examined, and the radiological risk parameters using the activity concentrations of radioactive elements were calculated. Also, cancer risk values in the study area and some cancer risk values in the world were comparatively discussed. In addition, comparisons of the ELCR obtained using a new way in this study (equations (6) or (10)) and calculated (equation (5)) depending on the coefficients of different organizations were made. Furthermore, radioactive elements obtained in the study area were evaluated in terms of both statistical and radiological risk according to geological units. To compare the concentration values of the radioactive elements obtained in the study area, the minimum, maximum, and average values of them in the soil or different rock types in the literature are presented in Table 1. It can be seen from the table that the activity concentration values of radioactive elements are obtained from the soils of India, and the soils and trachyandesite rock of this study are much higher than their world average. While some areas in the world and soil or rock units in the study area have the highest 40K, Table 1 shows that sometimes 238U and sometimes 232Th activity concentration values are higher in the same geological units. It can be inferred that the activity concentration values in both soil and trachyandesite in the study area are higher than the average values of activity concentration values in the world and Türkiye (Table 1).
4.1 Statistical evaluation of radioactive elements in the geological units
In Figure 3, the minimum, maximum, average, standard deviation, and coefficient of variation values of the activity concentration of radioactive elements obtained in different geological units of the study area are presented. In the study area, four different geological units were distinguished. It is seen that the highest activity concentration values among these units are 40K. The geological units that exhibited the highest of 40K are trachyandesite, soil, limestone, and flysch, respectively. It is considered that the minimum and maximum values of the 40K in the limestone are 6 and 886 Bq/kg, respectively, and the height of the maximum value is caused by the pumice particles on the limestone due to the effect of Gölcük volcanism. A similar situation can be considered for the areas where there are maximum values of 238U and 232Th. The average activity concentration values and the standard deviations of 40K, 238U, and 232Th elements in limestone were found to be 254, 61, and 46 Bq/kg, and 238, 23, and 40 Bq/kg, respectively. The fact that the standard deviation is especially high for 40K is due to both the wide data range (6–886 Bq/kg) and the low number of data (n = 24) in the limestone. Similar values for limestone were also obtained in the flysch unit, and it can be seen in Figure 3 that the average values were less than the world average values.
Soils in the study area were formed both from the fallout of the Gölcük volcanism and as a result of the abrasion and transport of the surrounding rocks. Therefore, the minimum and maximum values of the activity concentrations of 40K, 238U, and 232Th measured at 200 different points were obtained as 169–1,493, 26–222, and 26–279 Bq/kg, respectively. The standard deviation values of the radioactive elements (40K, 238U, and 232Th) obtained in the soils were found to be 269, 41, and 48 Bq/kg, respectively. It is understood that the standard deviation values obtained in soils are less deviated than the average value compared to limestone and flysch. In addition, the average values of radioactive elements available in the soils in the study area are about three times higher than the world's average values. The geological unit that obtained the highest of the radioactive elements in the study area is trachyandesite, and this geological unit is a product of Gölcük volcanism. While the average value of 232Th in trachyandesite and soils is higher than the average value of 238U, this is the opposite in limestone and flysch. In addition, since the coefficients of variation of the activity concentration values of the radioactive elements obtained in different geological units in the study area are below the value of 100, each variable tends to show a normal distribution.
Figure 4 shows the relations of radioactive elements with each other. Figure 4a and b shows the linear relationships and empirical correlations of 238U and 232Th with 40K, respectively. In addition, to determine the error rate in the measured and calculated 40K values, the root mean square error (RMSE) values were obtained and shown with dashed lines. In Figure 4a and b, the geological units are shown with different colors, and empirical relationships were determined by using the data measured from all geological units. In addition, the relationships between 238U and 232Th with 40K in limestone, flysch, trachyandesite, and soils are presented separately in Figure 4c–f, respectively. It is seen that linear relationships with a high correlation coefficient between 232Th and 40K in geological units and scattering of data are less around the line. On the other hand, it can be understood from the correlation coefficients that the data are more scattered around the line in 238U–40K relationships. As a result, it is understood from the correlation coefficient and the less scattering of the data around the line that the radioactive elements are more linear than the 232Th–40K and 238U–40K in the relationship among themselves.
4.2 Radiological risk assessment and its distribution maps
Geological units on the earth’s surface are an important component of natural radiation. When Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, many radionuclides occurred. These radionuclides are the source of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Therefore, the concentrations of radiation in geological units vary depending more or less on these radionuclides. Potassium, thorium, and uranium are the most intense radioactive elements in geological units on the earth’s surface because of their very long half-lives. In addition, radioactivity in geological units is determined by the detection of gamma rays and expressed as a gamma dose ratio. Therefore, in this study, 40K, 232Th, and 238U radioactive elements were measured and maps were created from activity concentration values and gamma dose ratios of these radioactive elements (Figure 5). As shown in Figure 5, four different geological units have been studied and the borders of these geological units and the settlement areas have been distinguished with different colored lines. In addition, when the world average values  (Table 1) are taken into account, it is understood that both the activity concentration values of radioactive elements and gamma dose ratio values are quite high in trachyandesite and soil units in the study area. On the other hand, it is seen that both radioactive elements and gamma dose ratio values are lower than their world average values in areas where limestone and flysch are found (Figure 5). The University campus and Çünür settlement area included in the studied area make the evaluation of this area important in terms of radiological risk.
The activity concentration values of the radioactive elements obtained in the study area, and the minimum, maximum, and average values of the radiological risk parameters calculated using these values are presented in Table 2. It can be seen that the radioactive element values in all geological units are listed as 40K, 232Th, and 238U from the largest to the smallest. While the average values of radioactive elements obtained in limestone and flysch units are around the world's average values, it was found to be approximately 3 times higher than the world's average values in trachyandesite and soil units. This situation reveals the importance of radiological risk parameters, especially in volcanic rocks and soils formed by erosion and transport from the surrounding rocks together with the fallouts of Gölcük volcanism.
|Geological Units||Elemental activity concentration||Radiological risk|
|238U Bq/kg||232Th Bq/kg||40K Bq/kg||D nGy/h||AEDR mSv/year||Raeq Bq/kg||H ex|
The world mean values of radiological risk parameters are as follows: D = 59 nGy/h, AEDR = 0.07 mSv/year, Raeq = 109 Bq/kg, and H ex = 1. When the average values obtained in Table 2 and radiological risk parameters are compared with the world average values, it is seen that trachyandesite and soil units are very high compared to the world average values. Negative effects may occur in terms of human health, especially in areas with an H ex > 1, which is one of the radiological risk parameters. In the study area, the minimum/maximum and the average H ex values of soil and trachyandesite were found to be 0.16–1.77, 1.2, and 1.31–2.32, 1.63, respectively. It is seen that even the minimum value in the area where the trachyandesite unit is located is greater than the H ex = 1 value. The upper limit value of Raeq = 370 Bq/kg corresponds to the H ex = 1 limit value, and especially in and around the trachyandesite unit, values greater than H ex = 1 and Raeq = 370 Bq/kg are obtained. Therefore, especially the trachyandesite unit and its vicinity are a radiological risky area for human health. On the other hand, the areas where limestone and flysch units are found are not under radiological risk.
The excess lifetime cancer risk parameter, which shows the results of the radiological risk parameter on human health, was calculated using equations (5) (equation depending on coefficients) and (10) (new proposed equation) and presented in Table 3. The minimum/maximum and average values of the excess lifetime cancer risk according to ICRP-60 in limestone, flysch, soil, and trachyandesite units were obtained as 0.017–0.126 and 0.047, 0.017–0.062 and 0.033, 0.019–0.209 and 0.139, and 0.151–0.272 and 0.191, respectively. Table 3 shows that the ELCR values obtained according to the coefficients of all institutions (ICRP-60, BEIR-VII, and ICRP-103) and the new equation produced in this study are compatible with each other. Accordingly, if the study area is interpreted in terms of radiological risk, the highest risk area is the trachyandesite unit. ICRP-60, BEIR-VII, and ICRP-103, and according to the results of this study, 19, 17, 15, and 18 people per 10,000 on average will face the excess lifetime cancer risk, especially those living in and around the trachyandesite unit.
|Geological units||Excess lifetime cancer risk (ELCR) (%)|
Figure 6 shows the comparison between the compatibility of the ELCR values obtained depending on the different organizations’ coefficients and that produced in this study. In this figure, maximum ELCR values were used, and the ELCR values determined from the proposed equation are compatible with the ELCR values calculated depending on the coefficients of different organizations. It is considered an advantage that the proposed equation in this study does not depend on the coefficients.
Figure 7 shows the relationships between the ELCR calculated based on the coefficients of different organizations and the ELCR values suggested in this study. While the smallest ELCR values based on different organization coefficients are calculated from ICRP-103, the highest ELCR value is obtained from ICRP-60. This difference is due to the organization coefficients. As shown in Figure 7, while the results of different organizations are close to each other for small ELCR values, different values are obtained for ELCR values greater than 10. Therefore, in areas with high radiological risk, different ELCR values will be obtained due to the organizations’ coefficients. However, since the ELCR equation suggested herein depends on the radiological risk parameters of the ground, the same ELCR results will be obtained. When the relationships between the ELCR results suggested by this study and calculated based on the organizations’ coefficients are examined, it is understood that there is a linear relationship. The ELCR values calculated from the relationship suggested by this study were smaller than those calculated from the ICRP-60, while greater than those calculated from the ICRP-103 and BEIR-VII coefficients. These comparisons are seen in Figure 7.
The data of the radiological risk parameters calculated at each measurement point in the study area were mapped using the Surfer package program and the Kriging interpolation method, which are more flexible than other interpolation methods. This method was used to grid the dataset and obtain a good map. The maps created from radiological risk parameters (AEDR, Raeq, H ex, and ELCR) and the boundaries of the geological units within these maps are presented in Figure 8. When the AEDR map in Figure 8 is examined, it is seen that all colors except yellow are above the world average (0.07 mSv/year). While the yellow-colored areas consist of limestone and flysch units, the highest values are in trachyandesite (III) and the surrounding soils. Therefore, people living on trachyandesite and the surrounding soil are exposed to very high doses. In the Raeq map in Figure 8, the world average value, which is 109 Bq/kg, is limited by the green color, and it is seen that the yellow and green colored areas on the map overlap with the borders of limestone and flysch units. Therefore, very high Raeq values are encountered in areas where trachyandesite are, which is a volcanic unit, and soil units formed under the influence of volcanism. Similarly, when the map showing the distribution of the H ex parameter is examined, H ex = 1 is the limit value, which is the world average, and is limited with green color. In this map, while the green- and yellow-colored areas are interpreted as areas with low radiological risk, it is understood that trachyandesite and its vicinity are areas with high radiological risk. In light of all these parameters, it is possible to determine the threat to human health numerically by using the excess lifetime cancer risk relationship. The excess lifetime cancer risk map calculated for each measurement point in the study area is presented as an ELCR map in Figure 8. The map reveals that the most excess lifetime cancer risk is trachyandesite (III) and in the black areas around it (24 people in 10,000) and less excess lifetime cancer risk in the lighter pink areas (12 people in 10,000). As a result, when all these maps are examined, it is understood how much radioactive element is in which geological unit and how much radiological risk it contains. Therefore, human beings should be kept away from such harmful areas and such areas should not be opened to settlement.
In this study, Figure 9 shows the relationships between the excess lifetime cancer risk and the activity concentration values of radioactive elements. While the relationships between radioactive elements and the excess lifetime cancer risk are presented together in Figure 9a, the relationships between potassium, uranium, and thorium, and the excess lifetime cancer risk are shown in Figure 9b–d, respectively. Geological units are shown with different colors in these relationships. When the relationships in Figure 9 are examined, the least RMSE and the best correlation coefficient were obtained in the relationship between thorium and excess lifetime cancer risk. On the other hand, it is seen in Figure 9c that the relationship between uranium and excess lifetime cancer risk has the highest RMSE and the lowest correlation coefficient. As can be seen in Figure 9, the lowest excess lifetime cancer risk was obtained from limestone and flysch, while the highest excess lifetime cancer risk was obtained from trachyandesite and soil units. The present study is important and supports the results obtained in previously reported works that are related to radiation issues [56–74].
The geological units with concentration values of radioactive elements from the highest to the lowest in the study area are trachyandesite, soil, flysch, and limestone, respectively. The activity concentration values of radioactive elements, especially in trachyandesite and soil units, are considerably higher than the world average values.
The data obtained in the study area show a statistically normal distribution. In addition, considering the amount of data on the relationship between radioactive elements obtained in this study area, the best relationship was obtained in the 40K–232Th relationship in the soil unit.
This study proposes a new excess lifetime cancer risk equation and it is compatible with the results of the existing excess lifetime cancer risk equation.
Among the relationships between the excess lifetime cancer risk and radioactive elements (40K, 238U, and 232Th), the least RMSE and the best correlation coefficient were obtained in the 232Th–ELCR relationship.
According to the radiological risk parameters, the most hazardous geological units in terms of human health in the study area are trachyandesite and soil. It is estimated that the highest excess lifetime cancer risk in the study area can be in people living on and in the vicinity of trachyandesite and soil units. As a result, trachyandesite and soil units have been determined as the natural sources with the highest excess lifetime cancer risk. Therefore, this study suggests that there should be no human life in these areas where the excess lifetime cancer risk is high.
Funding information: There is no funding involved in this article.
Author contributions: The author confirms sole responsibility for the following: study conception and design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of results, and manuscript preparation.
Conflict of interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.
Ethical approval: The conducted research is not related to either human or animal use.
Data availability statement: Derived data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on request.
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