Answer to Question #9778 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
It is true that brick and stone are likely to be more radioactive than wood, simply because brick and stone contain more naturally radioactive material like uranium and thorium. Scientific studies (which YouTube videos most definitely are not!) have found that for brick-veneer houses, the building materials contribute about 0.008 microsievert (µSv) per hour. This value is from the National Council on Radiation Protection Report 160, Ionizing Radiation Exposure of the Population of the United States.
The same report provides an estimate of our overall dose from "ubiquitous" background radiation, which includes the dose from building materials in our homes. In the United States, our overall dose from natural background radiation is about 3.11 millisieverts (mSv) per year or 311 millirem (mrem) per year. Of this, about 0.07 mSv/y (7 mrem/y) is from building materials.
The higher dose rates that you cite may be from dwellings in other parts of the world, which typically use much different building materials and techniques than in the United States. There are reports of research done on indoor dose rates in China, Nigeria, Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands ranging from 0.1-1.3 mSv/y (10-130 mrem/y).
There is little or no risk to you and your family from the brick in the house. The Health Physics Society has published a position paper on this topic (see PS005-3, "Ionizing Radiation Safety Standards for the General Public").The Society's position is that dose rates up to 1 mSv/y (100 mrem/y) above the annual natural radiation background are acceptable because at this dose, risks of radiation-induced health effects are either nonexistent or too small to be observed.
Linnea Wahl, Certified Health Physicist