This work investigates the possibility of applying optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) in retrospective dose determinations using unheated materials. It focuses on identifying materials suitable for use in assessment of doses absorbed as a consequenceof radiation accidents (i.e. accident dosimetry). Special attention has been paid to quartz extracted from unheated building materials such as concrete and mortar. The single-aliquot regeneration-dose (SAR) protocol has been used to determine absorbeddoses in small aliquots as well as single grains of quartz. It is shown that OSL measurements of single grains of quartz extracted from poorly-bleached building materials can provide useful information on radiation accident doses, even when theluminescence sensitivity is low. Sources of variance in wellbleached single grain dose distributions have been investigated in detail and it is concluded that the observed variability in the data is consistent with the sum (in quadrature) of a component,which depends on the number of photons detected from each grain, and a fixed component independent of light level. Dose depth profiles through laboratory irradiated concrete bricks have successfully been measured and minimum detection limits of less than100 mGy are derived. Measurements of thermal transfer in single grains of poorly-bleached quartz show that thermal transfer is variable on a grain-to-grain basis and that it can be a source of variance in singlegrain dose distributions. Furthermore, thepotential of using common household and workplace chemicals, such as table salt, washing powder and water softener, in retrospective dosimetry has been investigated. It is concluded that such materials should be considered as retrospective dosimeters inthe event of a radiation accident.