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Sci Total Environ. 2007 Jun 15;379(1):1-15. Epub 2007 Apr 18.

Temporal moisture content variability beneath and external to a building and the potential effects on vapor intrusion risk assessment.

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  • 1National Research Council, United States.

Abstract

Migration of vapors from organic chemicals residing in the subsurface into overlying buildings is known as vapor intrusion. Because of the difficulty in evaluating vapor intrusion by indoor air sampling, models are often employed to determine if a potential indoor inhalation exposure pathway exists and, if such a pathway is complete, whether long-term exposure increases the occupants' risk for cancer or other toxic effects to an unacceptable level. For site-specific vapor intrusion assessments, moisture content is, at times, determined from soil cores taken in open spaces between buildings. However, there is little published information on how moisture content measured outside a building structure compares with the moisture content directly beneath the building - where the values are most critical for vapor intrusion assessments. This research begins to address these issues by investigating the movement of soil moisture next to and beneath a building at a contaminated field site and determining the effect on vapor intrusion risk assessment. A two-dimensional, variably-saturated water flow model, HYDRUS-2D, is used with 2 years of hourly, local rainfall data to simulate subsurface moisture content in the vicinity of a hypothetical 10 x 10-m building slab at a contaminated field site. These moisture content values are used in vapor intrusion risk assessment simulations using the Johnson and Ettinger model with instantaneous and averaged moisture contents. Results show that vapor intrusion risk assessments based on moisture content determined from soil cores taken external to a building structure may moderately-to-severely underestimate the vapor intrusion risk from beneath the structure. Soil under the edges of a slab may be influenced by rainfall events and may show reduced vapor intrusion risk as a consequence. Data from a building instrumented with subslab moisture probes showed results similar to the modeling, but with a smaller difference between the subslab and outside average moisture contents. These results indicate that, depending upon the point of vapor ingress into the structure and soil type, risk-based cleanup concentrations based on outside-of-slab or default moisture content values may not be predictive of exposure to organic vapors from below a building.

PMID:
17442380
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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