January 13, 2023
Journal Article

Meta-Study of Particulate Detection Losses on Radioactive Particulate Air Sample Filters


Several mathematical relationships between air sample filter mass loading and the correlated analytical self-absorption factor were developed using data from other published research in this meta-study. Gross-alpha and -beta applications are addressed for this research. As filter media becomes loaded with particulate matter, there is potential for measurement losses due to self-absorption by mass loading. Components contributing to absorption include particulate dust, radioactive particulates, and filter material. Standards indicate a correction factor should be used when the penetration of radioactive material into the collection media or self-absorption of radiation by the material collected would reduce the detection rate by more than 5%. Previously, losses due to self-absorption have been reported up to 100% over a range up to ~10 mg cm^-2 mass loading. These absorption losses then can be used to determine a correction factor for sample results. For low mass loadings (e.g., =0.1 mg cm^-2) corrections factors in the 0.85 – 1 range have been recommended and used, while at higher mass loadings nearer to 10 mg cm^-2 correction factors closer to 0 (representing near 100% losses) are used. Based on data from published studies, the different methods for relating percent loss due to self-absorption to mass loading include linear, exponential, quadratic, and trinomial derived functions. Where applicable, both a forced zero and non-forced zero result were evaluated. From the derived functions evaluated, the trinomial function provided the best fit. Once the sample filter mass loading is known, the trinomial function can be applied to estimate losses and corresponding self-absorption factor. When applied to routine operating conditions for radiological facility stacks monitored at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for an average sample filter mass loading of 0.09 ± 0.12 (2s) mg cm^-2 (excluding negative values and outliers) and a range from 0 – 0.24 mg cm^-2, the estimated trinomial function nominal self-absorption losses are less than 5% at 0.09 mg cm^-2 and less than 10% at 0.24 mg cm^-2. The trinomial function is one method that may be used to adjust the activity results of an air sample when the sample-specific mass loading is determined. The application of no correction factor when the ANSI/HPS N13.1-2021 guidance of a 5% threshold for loss is not reached with typical stack sample mass loadings may be reasonable in high-efficiency particulate air filtered systems. For simplicity, it would be conservative to assign the self-absorption correction factor at the 5% threshold (i.e., 0.95) for general uses but in cases of heavy mass loading to calculate the factor.

Published: January 13, 2023


Barnett J.M., and H.Z. Edwards. 2022. Meta-Study of Particulate Detection Losses on Radioactive Particulate Air Sample Filters. Journal of Enviornmental Protection 13, no. 8:589-602. PNNL-SA-168134. doi:10.4236/jep.2022.138037

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