Carbon Dioxide And Radon Gas Hazard In The Alban Hills Area (Central Italy)

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Journal Article: Carbon Dioxide And Radon Gas Hazard In The Alban Hills Area (Central Italy)

The sudden and catastrophic, or slow and continuous, release at surface of naturally occurring toxic gases like CO2, H2S and Rn poses a serious health risk to people living in geologically active regions. In general this problem receives little attention from local governments, although public concern is raised periodically when anomalous toxic-gas concentrations suddenly kill humans or livestock. For example, elevated CO2 concentrations have been linked to the death of at least 10 people in the central Italian region of Lazio over the last 20 years, while it was the CO2 asphyxiation of 30 cows in a heavily populated area near Rome in 1999 which prompted the present soil-gas study into the distribution of the local health risk. A detailed geochemical survey was carried out in an area of about 4 km2 in the Ciampino and Marino districts, whereby a total of 274 soil-gas samples were collected and analysed for more than 10 major and trace gas species. Data were then processed using both statistical and geostatistical methods, and the resulting maps were examined in order to highlight areas of elevated risk. General trends of elevated CO2 and Rn concentrations imply the presence of preferential pathways (i.e. faults and fractures) along which deep gases are able to migrate towards the surface. The CO2 and Rn anomalous trends often correspond to and are usually elongated parallel to the Apennine mountain range, the controlling structural feature in central Italy. Because of this fundamental anisotropy in the factors controlling the soil-gas distribution, it was found that a geostatistical approach using variogram analysis allowed for a better interpretation of the data. With regard to the health risk to local inhabitants, it was found that although some high risk areas had been zoned as parkland, others had been heavily developed for residential purposes. For example, many new houses were found to have been built on ground which has soil-gas CO2 concentrations of more than 70% and radon values of more than 250 kBq m-3. It is recommended that land-use planners incorporate soil-gas and/or gas flux measurements in environmental assessments in areas of possible risk (i.e. volcanic or structurally active areas).

S. E. Beaubien, G. Ciotoli and S. Lombardi

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2003

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S. E. Beaubien,G. Ciotoli,S. Lombardi. 2003. Carbon Dioxide And Radon Gas Hazard In The Alban Hills Area (Central Italy). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .