Dumbasses pay to sit in mines filled with radon gas in hopes of improving their health.

Tell some people that the government has determined that they shouldn’t stick a fork into their eye and they’ll do it anyway. Then they’ll claim it actually helps them to see better. And it cured their gout. And their jock itch. And whatever else ails them. The same thing applies to exposing themselves to known carcinogens such as radon gas. In fact, not only are some people seeking out sources of radon to expose themselves to, but other people are charging them good money for the privilege of doing so. Out in Montana there’s at least two “radon health mines” where for an hourly rate you can sit in an abandoned mine and breathe in the radon filled air:

The Montana public health agency “doesn’t encourage (the mines’) use,” said Dr. Todd Damrow of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Service. “But people are free to use them.”

And they do, by the thousands every year. Many people make annual pilgrimages to the Merry Widow and the Earth Angel mines in Basin, and the Free Enterprise and Lone Tree mines in Boulder.

Owners of the mines dismiss the EPA warnings about radon as “government propaganda.”

“It’s not harmful at all,” said Patricia Lewis, owner of the Free Enterprise Mine.

The article doesn’t state what qualifications Patricia Lewis has for determining that radon gas isn’t harmful in spite of the mounds of studies that contradict her stance. Nor does the article elaborate on what reason Lewis feels the government has for spreading such propaganda about the dangers of radon exposure, but I’m sure her reasons are all based on valid scientific principles and exhaustive medical research, right? Well, she does have a nice list of links to a handful of dissenters on the dangers of radon at her website some of whom do have valid medical degrees and some of the organizations have impressive names (though some of the websites are now defunct), but compared to the amount of contradictory evidence the literal handful of counter-arguments doesn’t hold up well. It certainly doesn’t justify the laundry-list of ailments that they claim radon therapy might be helpful for:

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

  • Arthritis (OA, RA, JRA etc.)

  • Asthma

  • Behcets

  • Bursitis

  • Cancer (Breast)

  • Carpal Tunnel

  • Chronic Pain

  •   Circulation

  •   Diabetes Type I & II

  • Eczema

  • Emphysema

  • Fibromyalgia (FMS)

  • Gout

  • Hayfever

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Inflammation

  • Lupus (SLE)

  • Migraine Headaches

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Osteo Arthritis (OA)

  • Post Polio Syndrome (PPS)

  • Prostate (BPH)

  • Psoriasis

  • Rheumatoid (RA)

  • Scleroderma

  • Sinus

  • Ulcerative Colitis

Much like the ever-popular Homeopathy or some practitioners of Chiropractic, it seems like there’s not much radon therapy isn’t effective for if you believe their website. The owner of the other mine is Dwayne Knutzen and he’s got the typical I-was-a-skeptic-at-first story that’s familiar to anyone who pays attention to these things.

“I was like everybody else,” he said. “Radon? That can’t be good for you.”

But the more he researched the health benefits of radon, he said, the more he was convinced of them.

“The only reason I bought the place,” said Knutzen, “is it’s so fascinating. You hear all these bad things. But you can’t ever find anybody who died from it. And there are all these benefits.”

It’s probably true that you’re unlikely to find many death certificates that specifically list radon as the cause of death, but then you don’t normally find death certificates that cite smoking as the cause of death either as in both cases it’s something that tends to affect you slowly over a period of time eventually resulting in lung cancer. In fact, if you’re a smoker the risk increases dramatically. 

It’s estimated that around 14,000 deaths a year are associated with radon exposure, though that could range from as low as 7,000 to as high as 30,000. Ironically, we know more about the dangers of radon than we do about almost any other human carcinogen thanks to extensive epidemiological studies of thousands of underground miners carried out over more than fifty years world-wide. The charge that this is all Governmental propaganda doesn’t hold water as these studies have been repeated throughout the world.

    In 1988, a panel of world experts convened by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer unanimously agreed that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that radon causes cancer in humans and in laboratory animals (IARC, 1988). Scientific committees assembled by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS, 1988), the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP, 1987), and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP, 1984) also have reviewed the available data and agreed that radon exposure causes human lung cancer.

    Recognizing that radon is a significant public health risk, scientific and professional organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and the National Medical Association have developed programs to reduce the health risks of radon. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reviewed the epidemiological data and recommended that the annual radon progeny exposure limit for the mining industry be lowered (NIOSH 1987).—A Physician’s Guide – Radon: The Health Threat with a Simple Solution

But don’t let that dissuade you, a couple of yahoos out in Montana say it’s perfectly safe and they’re willing to charge you $112 for 32 hours of exposure to prove it to you. Hey, they got tons of testimonials from other folks they’ve successfully charged as proof that it works!

A sign above the door reads “Fountain of Youth – Feel Young Again,” a reference to the mine’s radon-saturated spring water that flows from the depths of the mountain. Guests frequently brave the icy 40-degree temperature of the water with hopes of soaking away pain and swelling in joints and to improve circulation. They even splash it in their eyes to improve vision and, some say, cure cataracts. Others drink the water, hoping for relief of bladder and prostate problems, according to Knutzen.

“A lot of people take the mud off the wall and rub it on their skin for skin problems,” Knutzen said.

Similar inside to the Merry Widow, but with a more cramped, 600-foot tunnel and fewer amenities, the Earth Angel was purchased five years ago by Bill Remior. He charges $2 a day for “treatments” in his mine.

A disabled World War II veteran, Remior had visited all the area’s radon mines for 20-some years before buying the Earth Angel.

“I seen what good they did me,” he said. “I figured it was the Good Lord was doing it. I’ve got a weak heart and only half a lung. But I can go good yet. It’s helped me. I seen a lot of miracles come out of here. And I never seen anything wrong.”

Probably the most hilarious comment, though, comes from Knutzen:

“Radon is a colorless, odorless gas,” said Knutzen before leading a tour of his mine. “But when you come out, you register on a Geiger counter.”

He says this like it’s a good thing. Next thing you know he’ll be telling you it’s OK if you glow in the dark as it makes reading books when the power is out a lot easier. Part of the problem, of course, is that radon is a slow killer. If it worked faster then these idiots would kill themselves off in short order and wouldn’t be around to continue to spread their stupidity to other people. It’s like that myth about a frog in a pot of water brought slowly to a boil. So long as the damage is gradual and hard to see then these idiots will continue to expose themselves to the danger. Still, I suppose that’s Darwin’s theory of natural selection at work.

128 thoughts on “Dumbasses pay to sit in mines filled with radon gas in hopes of improving their health.

  1. Obviously radon gas is not a cure for a terminal case of stupidity huh?

    Ya know, I was diagnosed with cancer at 25 so I can understand the mindframe of a person who is terminally ill and will try anything to get well (surgery did it for me).

    What I cannot understand or excuse are charlatans exploiting that mind set of an ill person. Charlatans such as these should be lined up and sodomized with a shotgun… double barrelled prefered. It doesn’t matter if it is religion or pseudo-science to me … they are all the same in my book

    How about taking all these idiots, putting them in the mines and sealing em up?

    gak! this is one of my pet peeves
    I am gonna go take a walk and calm down before I chew someone’s head off 🙁

  2. One of the few things that I remember from nuclear power training is that it is not good to be unnecessarily close to a radiation source. However, reading this I can see that we really didn’t have to fuss with dosimeters and film badges after all.

  3. I guess in desperation people will try anything. It’s a shame that many will end up suffering more in the long term. 

    Why do these people continue to market their ‘products’ as cure-alls?  Wouldn’t it be more effective to follow the lead of the drug companies and pick a couple of specific issues that the product addresses and then list some beneficial side effects it may have? 

    One thing in their favor is that the price is cheap!  Only $5.00 an hour or $150 per season.

    This from the FAQ section:
    [Quote]Q. Will I get sick?

    A. Many experience the mine “reaction

  4. You know, some days I just kick myself for having too many morals to hang out a shingle like this and make money hand over fist.  I know I could pull it off, too, just by following all the “alternative medicine” party lines.

  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11642642 or

    See this clinical trial in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology. Group 1 went to the Gasteiner Heilstollen in Austria, a radon mine/hospital, for radon therapy.

    Group 1 was positive vs. controls and Group 2 (that went a sauna spa) at 28 and 40 weeks.

    Health spas that had been in use since Roman times were found to have high radioactivity levels after radioactivity was discovered.

    Roentgen’s x-rays were found to cure infections and inflammatory diseases within months (1896). They were used in the early-mid 20th C. But sulfa drugs, then antibiotics, caused them to be abandoned – after all, drugs are much more profitable. Plus $ 100s of Billions for radiation protection.

    Follow the money! 

    [Having trouble with the URL links and Preview – I’ll try again if it doesn’t work.]

    Regards, Jim Muckerheide

  6. Jim, your name looked very familiar (Muckerheide is definitely unique!), and a quick Googling revealed why… I’ve peeked in on a few threads on the RadSafe list and seen your posts in conversation with my former roommate and good friend, Barbara Hamrick.

    I freely admit to having no education about radiation and the effect of radioactivity (and the fear-mongering we’re exposed to in relation to it) beyond Barb’s patiently explaining things to my ignorant ass 😀

    With that in mind (in other words, make it easy for this simpleton to understand!), can you perhaps share your thoughts as to HOW this radon therapy might be helpful in treating some of these ailments?

    Thanks very much smile


  7. I’ll try to put some more (referenced) information together on the subject.

    In brief, “the dose makes the poison.”  Like many substances (iron, chromium, manganese, etc.), it is postulated that low doses of radiation may actually provide beneficial effects, even while higher doses are harmful or fatal.  Since we evolved in a sea of radiation (much higher in prehistoric times), it is potentially critical to our continued health, although the specific benefits are not known.  There is some indication that it may stimulate the immune system, or have other effects that stimulate critical repair mechanisms.

    Barbara L. Hamrick

  8. Some immutable facts to ponder (from “Radiation Hormesis and the Radiologic Imperative” at http://www.auntminnie.com/print/print.asp?sec=sup&sub=xra&pag=dis&ItemId=57709&)

      “Predictably, with its “discovery,” nuclear physics was labeled a new science and presumed to be somewhat manmade and under man’s dominion and control.  Hasty scientific hypothesis and public dogma held that nuclear phenomena with ionizing radiation were hazardous at any level, and that humans must be shielded and protected from this “new” hazard.  The very idea is ironic, since the truth of the matter is that man is a product of nuclear energy, not vice versa.”
      “While generations of students and scientists have learned about radioactive decay and the half-lives of various radioactive elements and isotopes, virtually no one has turned the telescope around and discussed or documented the reverse view:  the same number of half-lives taken back into the past produces a double-life, a doubling of radioactivity for these elements, and an incremental terrestrial background level many times higher than today’s levels.”
      “…10 billion years passed before the first life forms appeared on earth.  Part of this delay was undoubtedly due to the early inhospitality of this planet to the initial generation of life, as well as to the subsequent preservation and propagation of primitive single-cell organisms.  However, there was another essential biologic requirement for these early simple organisms:  the need to tolerate and adapt to the inherent risk factors of early Earth, such as ionizing radiation, a sort of radiologic imperative necessary for life.
    The possibility of such an imperative was never considered by science or society following the new and startling discovery of these mysterious rays, and it was arbitrarily decreed that ionizing radiation is intrinsically dangerous at even the lowest levels.  To guard against any risk or hazard, scientists settled on the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis for radiation protection by extrapolating risk data from high-level exposure down through lower levels all the way down to zero exposure—a level which has never existed on earth except in specially shielded containers with artificial environments.
    And this is the biggest surprise and best-kept secret of all:  a man isolated in such a chamber and secure from extrinsic backgroung radiation would still experience significant intrinsic irradiation from himself.  The human body, rather than being a chaste and inviolate vessel of biologic purity, devoid of and unpenetrated by ionizing radiation, is actually its own radioactive repository and beehive of ionizing rays, with an intrinsic level of nearly 9,000Bq for the average 150-pound human.
      “This defies the original popular image of the human body as a radiosterile structure, and the resulting widespread assumption that any ionizing ray within this structure represents an isolated disruptive burst of thunder and lightning, which blasts and damages biologic tissue, and leaves a smouldering scar waiting to later burst into a consuming fire of malignant destruction.  A more accurate view is that these radioactive rays represent the steady spark of nature’s ignition in a smoothly running biologic engine.  Early life on this planet swam in an ocean of ionizing radiation, and this invisible ocean has clearly not disappeared even though it has receded…Man’s psyche may have been exposed to the reality of ionizing radiation for the first time in 1896, but his soma has been bombarded for eons by retrogressively higher levels of natural background radiation, punctuated by episodes of extraterrestrial radiation from exploding supernovae and occasional hypernovae, as well as evolving solar activity.
    According to the LNT hypothesis, such levels should have sterilized the earth and eradicated all life.  Instead, radiation may have produced multiple new mutations in existing life forms, with the negative disadvantageous mutations disappearing rapidly, and the positive advantageous mutations prospering and propagating.  Indeed, it seems likely that this radiologic imperative was a significant factor in the evolution of all species.”

  9. Hi Roxanne,

    Radon (in a bath/spring or in air) is taken in through the skin and lungs to the blood stream and is taken up in fat – saturates in an hour or so. Radon levels return to normal in a few hours.

    Biology needs ionizing radiation to function. Organisms and cells that have the radioactive potassium taken out of natural potassium and shielded from most of background, cease to function. When our cells evolved, natural radioactivity was about 10 times higher than now.

    The following brief summary by Dr. Liu shows high dose vs. low dose response as it affects immune molecules and cells, and indicates how the government scientists ‘fail’ to find that low doses are stimulatory.

    Regards, Jim Muckerheide

  10. Thanks Jim/all for your radon support.  http://www.radonmine.com is being rebuilt as we speak – due to launch this week or early next.  Til then, here are links to real live medical radon facilities, complete with medical doctors:
    Gasteiner Heilstollen – Bad Gastein, Austria

    Furstenzeche Bergwerk – Lam, Germany

    Radium Palace – Jachymov, Czech Republic.
    The Radium Palace hospital and sanitorium was established in 1912 by Marie Sklodowska Curie. Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize – granted for her work in discovering polonium and then radium in 1898 while seeking the cause of radioactivity of pitchblend from Joachimsthal, Bohemia.
    Behounek’s Sanatorium (est’d 1977) – Jachymov, Czech Republic
    Curie Sanatorium (est’d 1992) – Jachymov, Czech Republic

    Kurmittelhaus Sibyllenbad – Neualbenreuth, Germany

    appreciate all your time on this topic.

  11. One more point:  grin

    Re the ‘evil’ being done: At the press conf when the NAS panel released the report to support the “radon kills 15,000 people/yr” nonsense, a ‘member of the press’ asked the panel members who had had their house tested for radon – stunned silence! Not a single one of them.

    They also utterly ignored the numerous comprehensive studies of lung cancer vs. radon in the US by county by Cohen that had been the instigation for the review, along with others, which showed that there is less lung cancer in the high radon areas, with high statistical correlations and smooth fitting. See, e.g.:


    The “theory” line in the plots is the gov’t “prediction” vs. the actual data.

    Regards, Jim

  12. Sorry Jim, I just don’t buy it. Neither of the studies you listed in your first reply were double-blind experiments nor did either one say anything about the positive effects of radon exposure. In addition to that the measures used for determining effect were largely subjective consisting of things such as “patient’s global well-being, pain, and duration of morning stiffness,” and the results given are not so significant to put them beyond the placebo effect. Finally, the conclusions stated merely say that going to a spa in addition to drug-treatment and standard weekly physical therapy provides some benefit, which very well may be true. Assuming that because the spas mentioned have radon therapy means that radon was beneficial in their treatment is quite a jump and not even the studies themselves suggest this. It’s worth noting that they spell out exactly what was engaged in at the spas and this included “group physical exercises, walking, correction therapy (lying supine on a bed), hydrotherapy, sports” in addition to “visits to either the Gasteiner Heilstollen (Austria) or sauna (Netherlands).” There is nothing in either of these studies that would suggest the radon aspect of the spas played any significant part in the outcomes.

    Your statement about health spas in use since Roman times is nice, but it’s anecdotal and proves nothing. You don’t mention which health spas nor do you provide any information that indicates those health spas with high levels of radioactivity actually provided any more benefit for the people who frequented them over health spas that didn’t have high levels of radioactivity. Additionally, X-rays haven’t been abandoned as a form of treatment in favor of drugs in all cases. They are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors—prostrate cancer is often treated with x-ray therapy—and are administered by radiotherapists. You go on to imply that the reason radiation therapy has been abandoned (which it hasn’t) in favor of drug therapy is because the latter is more profitable, but this ignores the likelihood that drugs are more profitable simply because they provide a better risk/benefit ratio along with a lower cost to administer. You’re ignoring the fact that for many diseases drug therapy is often more effective, poses fewer risks, and is less costly than x-ray therapy would be. Yes, x-rays can be used to kill bacteria and this is part of why there has been a move in the food processing industry to irradiate food as a form of “electronic pasteurization” which, ironically, the public has been largely nervous about accepting for awhile now. But the same reason it’s effective at killing bacteria—it breaks apart the DNA chain preventing reproduction—is also why it’s risky to use as a treatment in humans for bacterial infections whereas antibiotics don’t carry that same risk. Your implication that drugs are advocated over x-ray therapy simply because they’re more profitable is an attempt to raise the scary specter of a conspiracy to deny people access to an effective therapy for purely monetary reasons. This is a popular claim among advocates for alternative therapies, but it’s not a particularly good one.

    It’s rather deceptive to compare radon with x-rays—one is a noble gas and the other is an electromagnetic wave—and it’s an oversimplification to imply that they work in a similar fashion. The nucleus of radon has 86 protons and 136 neutrons giving it an atomic weight of 222 and making it naturally unstable with a half-life of only 3.8 days. There aren’t enough neutrons to hold the nucleus together so it progressively breaks down into four relatively short-lived decay products starting with polonium-218 then lead-214 then bismuth-214 and finally polonium-214. Each of these changes emits radiation in the form of alpha or beta particles and gamma rays. Radon gas itself doesn’t chemically react with other matter nor will it form molecules or compounds and isn’t charged so it won’t cling to other matter and can be breathed deeply into the lungs. However, radon’s decay products are charged (polonium-218 has a charge of +2) and thus will stick to various surfaces including the lining of your lungs where it continues to break down. Alpha particles are known to cause DNA damage in the cells of mucous membranes, bronchi, and other pulmonary tissues and that can lead to lung cancer, which is the only disease that radon gas is definitively linked to at the moment.

    In a later reply you assert that radon gas is absorbed through the skin and is taken up in fat saturates and that levels return to normal in a few hours. Considering that there aren’t any routine medical tests that can be done to detect radon in human tissues your claim on where it ends up is somewhat suspect. Most of the radon you breathe in is expelled when you breathe out and it is estimated that 90% of the radon you ingest (via water for example) passes through the walls of your stomach and intestines into the bloodstream where it’s brought back to the lungs and exhaled. It is true that radon levels should drop back to normal levels after a few hours after you leave an area with high levels of it and that is largely due to the fact that we tend to breathe most of it out. The fact remains, however, that any area with high levels of radon gas also tends to have high levels of its decay products which tend to stick to lung tissue where they continue to break down emitting alpha particles in the process. These decay products can be detected in lung and bone tissue, in urine, and by a breath test, but the tests aren’t that good at determining accurately how much radon a person has been exposed to.

    Your further statements about ionizing radiation and biology sound reasonable enough, but the problem is you’re suggesting that all forms of ionizing radiation are the same and that just isn’t true. There is a big difference between Alpha particles and x-rays in terms of the potential harm they can cause with Alpha radiation being worse by a factor of 20. Yet you keep trying to use studies of x-rays to support your arguments about radon gas which does not produce x-ray radiation at all. That’s like trying to use studies of the health benefits of apples to show how a “Big Mac” is good for you on the basis that they’re both forms of food. Alpha particles are composed of two protons and two neutrons whereas X-rays are high energy photons. Alpha particles have an energy rating of 4 – 8 MeV (million electron-volts) and an atomic mass of 4 thus they interact with matter very strongly making their range very short and very destructive whereas Diagnostic Medical X-rays have a rating of only 200,000 eV (electron-volts) and an atomic mass of 0 so they don’t interact as strongly with matter and their range much is longer and much less damaging. You need lead to stop X-rays, but you only need tissue paper to stop Alpha particles and human skin is an exceptionally effective barrier as well. It’s because of this that alpha particles are only considered dangerous if an alpha emitting material is ingested or inhaled. Which is exactly what you’re doing when you sit in a mine full of radon gas and breathe deeply.

    Low doses of x-rays may actually have beneficial effects, but this says nothing about the potential benefits of exposure to low doses of Alpha radiation. In addition to that, the experiments you cited involved the application of x-rays in measured doses which is a far cry from “go sit in this mine for 32 hours and see how ya feel.” Exactly how much of a dose is a 32 hour spell in a radon mine anyway?

    Barbara, your response was just laughable. Full of generalizations about radiation and carefully crafted speculation about how it’s “potentially critical” and yet the “specific benefits are not known” which is hardly a ringing endorsement to try it considering the potential negative impact it can have later in life. I believe similar arguments justifying tobacco use were put forth at one time as well and we can see where that got us.

    Dr. Gerald Looney, MD, you of all people should know that there is no such thing as a truly “immutable fact” in science. I’ve taken up too much time with Jim’s comments to bother going into the silliness you’ve cut and pasted into your comment. Though I will say you appear to have an apt surname.

    Patricia Lewis, you’re not much better than the tobacco industry in my mind. I won’t be surprised when the day comes that you end up being sued by one of your former customers.

  13. I don’t mind, Les, that you’ll have the last word on this.  But before that happens, I would like to answer your question about dose. The dose of a 32 hour “spell” at our radon mine equates to approximately 6 mSv or .6 rads, or .6 rems or .6 Roentgens (about 2x annual background radiation).  My personal exposure?  Equals approximately – because, as you know, radiation measurement equivalents are not an exact – 150 mSv on an annual basis – I’m now into 11 years of radon.  I’d hate you to think that I would not subject myself to at least 25x’s more radon expsoure than our guests.  Note too that communities in India, Iran and Brazil exisit in naturally occuring radiation at levels of 250 mSv with no adverse effects.  Debate speculates that 500 mSv annually may be a threshold.  I’ll also point out that over 30 years ago we were sued by the FTC – and won.  No law suits from guests in 52 years – but then, who would want to own a hole in the ground full of radon?  Over 50% of our guests are annual visitors; another 25% visit every 2-5+ years.  I suppose the other 25% get cured; some will die, and others receive no benefit at all.  This we do know.  And yes, there are double blind studies “Long-term efficacy of radon spa therapy in rheumatoid arthritis – a randomized, sham-controlled study and follow-up” by Pratzel et al; British Jrnl of Rheumatology Vol. 39 Issue 8 (2000) pp 894-902.  This document in full, to be available from our website.  I like your clarity on radiation science. The question is oft asked to define the difference between radon and x-rays – you’ve done it nicely. I apologize to the people I invited to this site, to those who commented in a respectful manner regarding this controversial subject – thankyou for your continued support. I think we all know where the other stands – and that is the aim.  See you all back ont he list.

  14. I was beginning to wonder how long that prattle would go on.  Everyone has a right to his opinion.  This one just sounds like a bad PR campaign for RJ Reynolds.  Maybe they’ll start making ‘filtered’ and ‘unfiltered’ Radon mines for those wishing to meet their demise that much faster.

    I’d like to see the waiver one has to sign to go down in one of these mines.  I would imagine it would be very telling about their ‘faith’ in their product.

    captcha = ‘geekmom’ Right on!

  15. Les,

    You make the same “laughable” error you accuse me of when you basically assume a “potential negative impact it [radon exposure] can have later in life.”  That “potential” risk is purely hypothetical.  It’s been estimated from studies of miners exposed to high concentrations of radon during their routine working lives, and the risk-dose relationship was then assumed to be linear and extrapolated to the low dose/low dose-rate region for the convenience of the standard-setting agencies.  It’s not a representation of any known reality.  Harm from high doses of any substance does not establish any potential harm in the low dose region.  That’s just a regulatory convenience.


  16. Patricia, I’m impressed that you have an estimate on how much of a dosage 32 hours works out to. The fact that you’ve managed to go 11 years doesn’t mean a whole lot, it’s not like lung cancer is a rapidly developing disease and, honestly, I hope for your sake that it isn’t the way you end up eventually going. My grandfather managed to get away with smoking for around 50 years or so before it killed him. Therein lies the rub: It seems if it doesn’t immediately impact some folks they think there’s nothing wrong with it when the truth is they’re putting themselves at unnecessary risk. I’ll be sure to check out the report in the British Jrnl of Rheumatology as I’d be interested to see if it’s any better than the previous ones mentioned here. As for apologizing to folks you invited to this website, perhaps you should think twice before trying to enlist the aid of others in spreading your misinformation in the future then you wouldn’t need to apologize.

    Barbara, you just continue to crack me up.

  17. Well, Les, it doesn’t make any difference if you “buy it” or not. You’re not the first to show such pride in ignorance, to fail to gain information or understanding before ranting, to prattle on irrelevant “facts” as though they were relevant to the issue, to show no intellectual curiosity or integrity, and to be a shill for “govt science” to dupe the gullible. If you wanted double blind studies, you could have asked. I just provided an example of one study in a peer-reviewed journal that refutes everything you had ranted about in the first instance. Case closed. The author’s other papers in the series and refs document that the study was of radon effect. Other medical studies document radon distribution.

    You could ask “what health spas?’ but no – and Pat identified three and noted one (and since German unification Bad Schlema in the USSR U ore producing area in Saxony has reopened to great success).

    The Roman spas had objective evidence of health benefits before radium/radon – original double-blind studies!? grin And biological responses and medical studies confirm radon response.

    Low dose x-ray therapy (that works by stimulating immune response and other biopositive effects) has been abandoned (although it is used in a few conditions where drugs utterly fail), not talking about radiotherapy – high doses to fry cancers, etc.

    X-rays and alpha particles have differences, but the effect/unit energy is not relevant to whether biological responses are similar. All forms of ionizing radiation are ‘identical’ in ionizing atoms/molecules. Biological responses are similar, as they are with heat and many toxins. The effect is primarily in the biology, not in the stressor! (The issue is radiation from radon and its decay products: alphas, betas, gammas and deltas/x-rays, not whether Rn is a gas – that just addresses how it is transported in the body, although your ‘explanation’ of how Rn is transported is just parroting out of date govt “science” misinformation.) So the biological responses to ionizing radiation, internal alphas as well as external gammas/x-rays are substantially the same – adjusting for the “factor of 20” difference in dose “effectiveness” (although that simplistic value isn’t generally accurate either).

    I suppose it’s a waste to provide anything in science, and I’ve not bothered – “casting pearls…” comes to mind; but perhaps more like “behind an equestrian statue” will get me off the hook with my swine friends. Anyway, a few sources are at:

    Also, when you get to an abstract on the national Library of Medicine site (PubMed), e.g.:

    Go to the right side and click on “Related articles” for a somewhat more “independent” cut at the data on radon therapy (or search on that term, but you’ll have to avoid the use of radon seeds as a brachytherapy source).

    Regards, Jim

  18. Les,

    Why do I crack you up?  What’s so difficult for you to understand about the fact that, e.g., a high dose of iron will kill you, but yet, you can’t live without it?  That’s not a complicated concept.  Sunshine’s a carcinogen, yet provides health benefits as well.  Why is that funny to you?

    The evidence of the carcinogenic effects of radiation is from high dose/high dose-rate studies (Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the miner studies, etc.), and the theoretical effects are extrapolated downward.  The model isn’t reality, and hasn’t been substantiated.  What’s funny about that?


  19. This thread seems to have taken on almost a religious fanatics.  Let’s disregard all the scientific study that has been done and cling to one tiny element of hope.  I understand that this is a delicate issue for many of your visitors but I can also see how such a ‘visit’ could cause a lot more harm than good.

    It’s extremely difficult to deny years of studies done on the miners.  Yes, they were exposed to high dosages so the NCI went back and did controlled studies using low doses and still realized elevated levels of tumors compared to the control group.  They are still performing tests in order to help developers and homeowners deal with this.  That’s what science is about.  You can’t define the solution and write the science to ‘fit’.  We’re seen that tried too many times.

    I’m sure that those thousands of miners that have died from fairly low doses of Radon would love to weigh in on this issue but alas, they’ve already done their time in the mine.

    BTW – I’d still be interested in seeing that waiver.

  20. Mr. Jenkins, apparently there really ARE immutable things in science since your own personal insight and perspective appear very immutable; and your dogmatism appears to imply, “Don’t bother me with the facts—my mind is made up!”  You appear to have an active intellect, perhaps even hyperactive, but your laser-beam invective must hit mirrors and blind you to any quiet contemplation or reflective analysis.  You certainly know how to denigrate anyone who dares question your pejorative dogma.
      Perhaps it is your inevitable and unfortunate habit to insult some outstanding students of science and health physics who have the “flaw” of trying to educate the public and to point out to fellow scientists their irrational bias and prejudice against low-level radiation.  I extend to them my sincere sympathy and appreciation for their work.  Because my quotes were based on a priori reasoning, I am unable to see the “silliness I cut and pasted into my comment,” so I wish you would educate me.
      Finally, since you have negatively noted my ancient and honorable Irish surname (like Mooney, Rooney, Cooney, etc.) which is also borne by Chief John Looney, leader of the Western Cherokee nation and engraved on his tombstone in Washington, DC at the U.S. Congressional Cemetary.  I close with an ancient Cherokee prayer:  “May I criticize no man until I have walked for a mile in his moccasins.”  Until you can comprehend other viewpoints and tolerate honest attempts at dialogue and scientific discussion, your own efforts will be as silly and useless as you claim others’ efforts to be.  This is a shadow over a bright and productive mind, and a needless dilution of and distraction from your own good efforts.  Gerald Looney, MD

  21. A San Francisco company ushered in a craze in radioactive health crocks in 1912, when it was granted a patent for “Revigorator”. This device saturated water with radon and people were advised to drink six or more glasses each day. “Radithor”, a quack radon potion to cure sexual dysfunction and everything else, was introduced in 1925. After several years, people started dying of the effects of this potion. The manufacturer and user of Radithor died 14 years later of bladder cancer. No warnings to the public were ever issued.

    Hundreds of thousands of health-conscious Americans drank bottled water laced with radium as a general elixir, known popularly as “liquid sunshine.” Soon, radioactive toothpaste was marketed, then radioactive skin cream. Chocolate bars containing radium were sold as a “rejuvenator.” As recently as 1952, LIFE magazine wrote about the beneficial effects of inhaling radioactive radon gas in Montana mines. Even today, people visit the radon-filled mines and report multiple benefits. However, numerous studies have concluded that the only demonstrable health effect of inhaling radon is lung cancer.

    If I want lung cancer I’ll just starting smoking again, I miss the nicotine anyway!

  22. Hey, Spocko, is that a “crock” of radium water?

    My favorite is the radioendcrinator:

    Male—Place Radiendocrinator in the pocket of this adaptor with the window upward toward the body.  Wear adaptor like any “athletic strap”, (the cloth label in front).  This puts the instrument under the scrotum as it should be.  Wear at night.  Radiate as directed

    Of course, the story ends sadly:

    William J. Bailey, inventor of the Radiendocrinator (and Radithor), had great faith in his products and he claimed to use all of them. Bailey, who said he had drunk more radium water than any living man, died in 1949 of bladder cancer at 64 years of age.

    Which just goes to show that no matter how much you do to preserve your health, you can still be “cut down” by freak accidents like these.  Tragic.

    Hey, Spocko, when you insert images, do you have to host them yourself, or can you just link to them?

    capcha “Science”

    Ok, that’s just too freaky.  I’m gonna convert to Catholocism and start watching “Crossing Over.”

  23. Jim, the last thing I do is rant on topics I haven’t researched and looking around this site you will see plenty of situations where I have fully stated that I didn’t know enough about a particular topic to comment on it. My comments in this thread have all been based on my understanding of the issues from the research I have read on the topic and I am not naive enough to think that I’m infallible in this regard. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who visits this site regularly who would claim that I lack intellectual curiosity or integrity. The first several responses you left were hardly convincing in their content and your presentation smacks of every other snake-oil salesmen I have ever encountered and so I admit that my initial reaction to you may have been based on a preconception.

    It wasn’t until Patricia Lewis’ second reply that anyone provided anything in the way of a supporting reference specifically with regards to potential benefit from radon exposure and I found the study she cites to be interesting reading. Your follow up reply, however, again fails to impress. It would help your case if you’d drop the “evil government conspiracy” tone you keep adopting as that’s my first red flag that you’re just another crank.

    Gerald, you seem to think you’ve got me figured out from a handful of responses in a single thread. That’s a mighty impressive judgment to make considering how little correspondence we’ve had. Have I been a little tetchy in my reply? Absolutely, but then I tend to get a lot of email from folks set on correcting my errant viewpoints that turn out to be quacks and Jim’s initial volley sounded pretty much like the rest of them.

    Contrary to what you’re assuming I am not beyond being convinced, but simply providing a small segment from your own personal essay when I don’t know you from Adam’s cat isn’t going to convince me that you have a clue what you’re talking about. As for your surname, other than being an interesting bit of trivia, its pedigree doesn’t really count for much. The closing prayer is somewhat ironic seeing as by then you’ve already criticized me and my “dogmatism.” I have no trouble comprehending other’s viewpoints or tolerating honest attempts at dialog, but I didn’t see any of that here and honestly still don’t.

    What I do see is a group showing up and proclaiming that all of the published work is completely wrong and that a known carcinogen is completely harmless and does wonderful things for your body even though we can’t say specifically what those benefits are or how they are brought about beyond some speculation that sounds semi-plausible and then expecting everyone else to roll over and accept it all without question. I also see attempts at demonizing a whole branch of research merely because some of it is from the scary government which only wants to squeeze profits out of poor suffering wretches. Oh, and one MD who wants to dictate what the “immutable facts” are as though they were handed down from divine revelation.

    Surely you posses the intellectual integrity to see how that would make for a less than stellar way to start an “honest attempt at dialog and scientific discussion,” or am I assuming too much?

    Having said all of that, I have done some more digging and come across some studies that do seem to backup at least some of the claims that have been made. I’m not anywhere near convinced at this point that radon gas at low dosages is either particularly safe or actually beneficial, but I do see the possibility that it’s not as dangerous as some studies suggest. At the same time I’ve come across some other materials that seem to indicate Radon may be involved in other diseases. About the only thing I can say at the moment is that there is a lot of debate out there over this with the general consensus appearing to be that it’s more harmful than beneficial.

    As such I’ve dashed off an email to Physicist Bob Park who maintains a newsletter on scientific issues called “What’s New” that I’ve been following for awhile and whose opinion I do trust. With any luck he’ll take some time out of his busy schedule to respond and let me know if I’m off base or not. If it turns out that I am then I will be more than happy to eat crow over it.

  24. deadscot writes:  “Yes, they were exposed to high dosages so the NCI went back and did controlled studies using low doses and still realized elevated levels of tumors compared to the control group.”

    That’s not actually the case, I don’t believe.  NCI published a meta-analysis in 1997 by Lubin and Boice, but did not perform an independent controlled study.

    The meta-analysis took data from eight case-control studies that collectively (without the data integrated) were inconclusive.  Meta-analyses such as this one have a great deal of uncertainty associated with them, due to the variation in control groups, data collection techniques, etc.  This meta-analysis found that the integrated results of the eight studies correlated reasonably well with predictions of the Linear No-Threshold Theory; however, the results were not sufficiently convincing to be independently utilized as a basis for radon risk assessment in the 1998 National Academy of Sciences BEIR VI report on radon:(http://books.nap.edu/books/0309056454/html/R1.html), although the BEIR VI committee did review the 1997 Lubin/Boice paper.

    The BEIR VI committee still used high dose/high dose-rate miner data to extrapolate risks in the low dose/low dose-rate region.

    As noted in the report:  “Since a valid risk estimate could not be derived only from the results of studies in homes, the BEIR VI committee chose to use the lung-cancer information from studies of miners, who are more heavily exposed to radon, to estimate the risks posed by radon exposures in homes.”  And, “In converting radon risks from mines to homes, the committee was faced with several problems. First, most miners received radon exposures that were, on the average, many times larger than those of people in most homes; people in a few homes actually receive radon exposures similar to those of some miners. It was necessary for the committee to estimate the risks posed by exposures to radon in homes on the basis of observed lung-cancer deaths caused by higher exposures in mines.”

    I am actually on the fence on this issue – far from a religious zealot.

    I have been in radiation regulation for about 15 years, have never worked for industry, and have no notion that there are “magic cures” for anything.  In fact, my major concern on this issue is that we, collectively, waste billions of dollars worrying ourselves with hypothetical risks that are completely negligible compared to the lifetime risk of cancer we all face.

    According to the NIH, approximately 50% of all men and 37% of all women will have some incidence of cancer in their lifetime, and the mortality risk is about 23% overall.  Yet, we, as a society, lose sleep, and spend billions to prevent that risk from rising to 23.01% (God, forbid!).  It’s insane.  Spend that money providing some minimal level of guaranteed healthcare, or meaningful rehabilitation in our prisons, or paying our teachers a decent wage.

    In the case of radiation, the real conclusions from the studies thus far is that in the low dose/low dose-rate region, we do not know the extent of potential harms or benefits.  Period.  The best science right now says, we don’t know.  And, frankly, there is just as much hypothetical harm from over-regulation as under-regulation.


  25. Barbara, it would appear that I at least owe you an apology. Your latest reply is quite reasonable and I can find no real problems with it.

    I would like to point out, though, that my original entry on this topic wasn’t a call for wasting more money trying to negate or control radon—I’ve long suspected that the problem isn’t as bad as it appeared—but rather a criticism of promoting radon exposure as a cure-all. The fact that the best science right now can’t say whether there’s any real harm or benefit from low dose/low dose-rate exposure is enough in my mind to make intentionally exposing yourself to a known carcinogen a pretty stupid thing to do.

    You’ll also note, however, that I wasn’t advocating that these operations be shut down just as I don’t advocate the cigarette companies be put out of business. I am, at heart, a libertarian and if you want to do something stupid like smoke cigarettes or sit in radon filled mines then you should be free to do so. Rather than prohibit such activities I prefer to point out how stupid it is as education is often more effective than prohibition in these situations. I take a similar stand on issues such as recreational drugs.

    I also think it’s highly irresponsible for the owners of these mines to promote them as a potential treatment for a couple of dozen different ailments without some solid science to back it up, let alone charge for the experience. Again, this harkens back to the hey day of cigarettes when the producers of that product claimed all manner of health benefits from smoking. Or, more recently, to the homeopathic craze which is another thing that appears to be at best harmless and at worst a waste of money that is potentially harmful if the patients don’t seek proper medical care. Of course the best example is the former radon craze of first half of the twentieth century as has been pointed out here by others.

    Anyway as I said I owe you an apology as it appears we’re closer in our viewpoints than I originally thought based on your earlier replies.

  26. Harm from high doses of any substance does not establish any potential harm in the low dose region.

      It also does not establish any potential benefit in low doses.  Your tone implies that the assumptions made were frivolous, when it was the closest information available to the situation of the homeowner.  What you have is evidence of harm from high doses, no info of benefits from exposure, so you assume until studies can be carried out that it is likely harmful. 

    YOU may never develop cancer from radon.  That does not mean it is safe.  My grandfather died from stroke in his 80s.  He had the longest life span out of all the males in my line so far.  He also smoked (unfiltered for a while) most of his life, right up to the end.  That does not convince me that smoking won’t kill you.

    In the end, what you have is a product that may or may not be harmful, may or may not be beneficial, and a lot of suckers. 

    Muckerheide and Looney are starting to sound like the fundies in their defensiveness.  That’s just blood in the water around here.

  27. Les, I invited Barb here because I knew she could provide some insight on this issue (and I knew you & she have many similar views).  Having known her for over half my life, I know she’s done a ton of research and that even being so closely involved with the “health questions” around radiation she still considers most of what we see and hear in the media and government to be little more than unjustified fear-mongering and hand-wringing.  Besides, she can write out her positions and arguments so that they make sense to people with WAY more scientific knowledge than I have, yet not leave us ignoramuses scratching our heads thinking, “What the fuck did she just say?” LOL

    People like Barb, and YOU, are truly a gift to those of us cursed with an unslakeable thirst for knowledge and no formal education.  The few skills I possess in the art of debate are a direct result of having lived with Barbara and then seeking out others who didn’t mind sharing their thoughts and learning with an eager and curious dork like me.

    Back on-topic:  I think it’s just as fucked up that the pharmaceutical industry is allowed – make that encouraged through legislation – to push their products as having the cure for every ill as it is for the alternative medicine crowd to do it.  I wouldn’t put my health completely in the hands of either side (though I admit I lean more toward natural medicine than pharmaceuticals), and I certainly don’t trust the government to have the best interests of the People in mind when they start sticking their fingers into things.

    In fact, I tend to think that many of the ailments in the laundry list of the original post (most of which are classified as autoimmune-related disorders) may have become much more common BECAUSE of the overprescription of pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, vaccines and immunosuppressants.  Ironically, the course of drug treatment for most of those ailments is steroids and immunosuppressants!

    Having experienced the non insignificant side-effects of several years of such treatments for Crohn’s Disease, I can say with some certainty that whatever effects might come of a few visits to a radon-filled mine couldn’t possibly be any worse than what the drugs put me through (and my family, by extension, the poor bastards)!

    I’m just sick to fucking death of being told to live under a cloud of fear about nearly everything in my daily life.  War, radiation, cancer, Armageddon – it’s all bullshit.  I see the fear-mongering for what it is: a tool to more effectively control the ignorant masses.  Some people revel in their ignorance and superstition because it’s easier than taking the initiative to educate themselves.  I can only hope that one day there are more of US than them.  Unfortunately, smart people don’t breed as rampantly as the ignorant do.  Damn shame, that!


  28. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself, Les.  Backing up an extraordinary claim with equivocal evidence is just begging for derision.  Anyone who does that had better develop a pretty thick hide.

    I didn’t see anyone calling for regulation of the Radon spas – what the hell, I’d like to see the FDA turned into an advisory agency – it’s all about informed consent as far as I’m concerned.

    Maybe they’re on to something and in 200 years, school textbooks can say, “Early proponents of radiotherapy met with derision and laughter, but it is now standard nutrition accepted by everyone.”  That possibility is a poor reason to mistake a placebo effect for efficacy today.

  29. Hi nowiser,

    Sometimes I just link directly to the image (you might I’m stealing their bandwidth) but that doesn’t always work. I just use the normal HTML tag for images (img src=bla bla bla). Problem is sometimes those will disappear because the site is changed.

    I usually use Image Shack, it’s free and easy to use. You just browse to an image on your hard disk and ImageShack will grab it and give you links you can use. Pretty nifty!


  30. Les,

    It’s good that you “found some studies.” Can you provide links?

    You claim to be reasonable, and I’m unreasonable. But your initial comments had outrageous conclusions and character assassinations, vs. my first as link to an example from an “independent source” peer-reviewed science paper on radon mine therapies simply to show they’re applied in medicine (not as the ultimate ‘proof’), with a note that govt studies intentionally misrepresent radon/radiation health effects (to understand why there can be such discrepancies – it is not a “scientific debate” grin (And I know nothing else about your site, SEB!?, or your rationality – as the chief SEB?) grin

    I followed with example US data (peer-reviewed science) showing lower lung cancer in high radon counties. And dozens more PubMed science sources. What’s your assessment?

    See more human radon therapy studies.
    (Had a broken link, and there may still be problems with some links. Even the Heilstollen link had changed.)

    See some background papers on U miners.

    See an example animal study that shows that a moderately high radon dose of 25 WLM has excess cancers at high dose rates, and no increase at low dose rates.

    Also, go to the database and search for the author [from more than a few?] “Yamaoka, K.” for his research in Japan. (Yamaoka is an MD/radiation researcher, who is now at the Misasa radon springs treating patients).

    Especially, e.g., his paper on radon in rabbits.

    See also the rad health effects part of our response to letters in “Science” Jan 10, 2003 (p.3), on our Sep 20, 2002 Policy Forum paper in “Science” which went through pretty rigorous review by the “Science” editors (“extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”). grin

    See also some early studies on radiation effects and immunology esp. the paper linked from both: “There Never was a Time that the Beneficial Effects of Radiation were NOT Known,” and “It’s Time to Tell the Truth about the Beneficial Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation” and other articles and papers.

    You make the point that this is a “known carcinogen” but ignore the data provided that biological response to low vs. high doses of most, if not all, toxins and carcinogens have opposite effects. See this one-pager in the Feb 2003 Nature.

    Regards, Jim Muckerheide

  31. Jim, thank you for all the material and information you provided for this discussion.

    Les, my English is not fluent enough to answer all the details you wrote in your article and the following discussion and I don´t want to waste time. I only would like point out a few facts:

    1) You critisize the study of Maastrich University (which is world wide well known for it´s competence for e.g. Ancylosing Spondylitis (a rheumatic disease). I would kindly ask you to give me one study really showing the harmful effects of Low Dose Radiation (LDR) of better quality. You won´t find it. Everything you are claiming has no, absolutely no scientific basis. All arguments are not more then guesses …

    2) Gasteiner Heilstollen (warm and humid radon inhalation therapy) is the world wide (!) biggest treatment facility for Ancylosing Spondylitis. For 50 years we had 250.000 patients doing 2.5 million treatments. Our average patient is coming for 8 times (x 10 treatments) for

    a) pain reduction (up to 100%) for months (up to three years, in average 9 months) and
    b) reduction of drugs (up to 100%) (the same time)

    In Gastein valley about 40.000 patients are treated per year by radon therapy (radon water, radon inhalation) and it is a well established therapy for more then 600 years.

    I talk to our patients very often. Sometimes people are crying when talking about “their story” for the first treatment (some of them left the wheel chair) after a years-long search for the right cure.

    The treatment is paid by social insurances and thousands of doctors have experience with it.

    The overall dose of radiation is for one cure 1,8 mSv, compared to 2,4 mSv out of natural sources for an average European (going up to 20 mSv and more, but very often up to 10 mSv). Within this dose range absolutely no proof is given for any risk. Jim showed you a lot of evidence about the opposite. But even if you calculate a hypothetical risk, it is 20-50 times lower compared to drugs used for rheumatic diseases.

    We are no big corporation, we will improve our studies about the effects (I only would like to point out that a high ratio of medicine used by doctors has no double blind study as a basis).

    Do you you still think we are talking about a placebo?

    I don´t care, please continue to distribute your (from a scientific point of view) unreviewed


    Our patients will come again, every year.


    Christoph Koestinger
    Executive Director
    Gasteiner Heilstollen

  32. P.S.: there is a lot of old evidence. Most of it is in German or Russian and double blind studies are existing for radon water.


  33. Les and skeptics,

    I have recently sent the following to our science group:


    This reports on a clinical trial on radon therapy for endometriosis.

    Regards, Jim Muckerheide

    Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2003 Nov-Dec;(6):18-21.

    [Effect of radon baths of various concentrations on patients with genital endometriosis]

    [Article in Russian]

    Ovsienko AB.

    The study of the effect of radon water in different concentrations (1.5 and 6.5 kBk/l) on a clinical status and endocrine system of patients with genital endometriosis has detected a positive action of both concentrations. High-concentration radon water more effectively decreased the size and tenderness of endometriotic foci as well as concentration of sex steroids. Therefore, a differential approach is needed to prescription of radon water. Its concentration must be based on endometriosis extension and severity of the process.

    Publication Types:
    Clinical Trial


  34. Christoph,

    You’re English was extraordinarily fluent! grin

    Thank ou for taking the time to sent your comments.

    Regards, Jim

    Les and skeptics,

    I recently sent the following abstract of a paper in the scientific literature on radon studies by Albrecht Falkenbach, who was working as the MD at the Heilstollen Hospital:

    (As noted, I will send the full paper on request.)


    Our friend Albrecht Falkenbach reports on clinical trials of radon therapy for rheumatic diseases. He reviews a number of studies and includes in the meta-analysis here only those that are adequately randomized double-blind studies.

    Let me know if you need this paper for review.

    Regards, Jim Muckerheide

    Rheumatol Int. 2003 Dec 12 [Epub ahead of print]

    Radon therapy for the treatment of rheumatic diseases-review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials.

    Falkenbach A, Kovacs J, Franke A, Jorgens K, Ammer K.

    Gasteiner Heilstollen Hospital, 5645, Bad Gastein-Bockstein, Austria.

    OBJECTIVE. The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of radon therapy on pain in rheumatic diseases. METHODS. MEDLINE and MedKur databases were searched for the terms radon plus therapy, rheum, arthritis, and osteo. Radon therapy centers and experts in the field were contacted, proceedings hand-searched, and bibliographies checked for references of potential importance. Included were all prospective randomized controlled clinical trials that compared clinical effects of radon therapy with other interventions in patients with rheumatic diseases and studied pain intensity. Information concerning patients, interventions, results, and methodology were extracted in a standardized manner by all authors independently and summarized descriptively. Reports on pain reduction were pooled for meta-analysis. RESULTS. Five clinical trials with a total of 338 patients and comparing the effect on pain of radon baths (three trials) or radon speleotherapy (two trials) with control intervention in degenerative spinal disease (two trials), rheumatoid arthritis (one trial) and ankylosing spondylitis (two trials) met the inclusion criteria. In meta-analysis, the pooled data showed no difference immediately after treatment ( P=0.13) but significantly better pain reduction in the radon group than the control group at 3 months ( P=0.02) and 6 months ( P=0.002) after treatment. CONCLUSIONS. The existing trials suggest a positive effect of radon therapy on pain in rheumatic diseases. With respect to the potential clinical effect and given the increasing public interest in radon therapy, there is an urgent need for further randomized controlled clinical investigations with long-term follow-up.


  35. Les and skeptics,

    Finally, I have also recently sent the following to our science group:

    (I have received a reply from one of our Polish friends that this is a good paper to be translated to English to be published in the medical literature.)


    This paper on radon therapy is rather coincidental considering our “communications” with skeptics unfamiliar with the practice. grin

    The full pdf is accessible for free from the PubMed link – for those of you that read Polish!? However the link thru did not get to the pdf file for me.

    Zbigniew, Michal, Andrew, Jodi:  Do you think this is worth translating to English?  I see this is a medical journal, and associated with an institute of immunology.  Do you have recommendations on where it could be published?

    The author’s email address is included.

    Regards, Jim

    Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2004 Mar 8;58:150-7.

    [Radon and ionizing radiation in the human body]

    [Article in Polish]

    Zdrojewicz Z, Belowska-Bien K.

    Klinika Endokrynologii i Diabetologii Akademii Medycznej we Wroclawiu. zygmunt@zdrojewicz.wroc.pl

    Spa health care became a medical discipline just as the development of other sciences created sufficient grounds for it. The basic and oldest method of spa treatment is balneotherapy. Among the medicinal waters, those with radon arouse the most controversy, these being the source of ionizing radiation. Radon is the one of the most important natural sources of radiation on earth. The exact mechanism of radon’s effect on the human body is not completely understood. The hormesis theory is the best explanation of the advantageous biological effect of ionizing radiation in low doses. Radon significantly influences free oxygen radical transformations, nucleic acid repair, immunological processes, etc. It is a rare gas and does not react chemically with any compound in the body. It is known that radon is effective in treating chronic pain syndromes, endocrine disorders, and diseases of the circulatory and respiratory systems.


  36. Les, my English is not fluent enough to answer all the details you wrote in your article and the following discussion and I don´t want to waste time. I only would like point out a few facts:

    This should be interesting.

    1) You critisize the study of Maastrich University (which is world wide well known for it´s competence for e.g. Ancylosing Spondylitis (a rheumatic disease). I would kindly ask you to give me one study really showing the harmful effects of Low Dose Radiation (LDR) of better quality. You won´t find it. Everything you are claiming has no, absolutely no scientific basis. All arguments are not more then guesses …

    I’ve heard back from physicist Robert Park (author of the book Voodoo Science) and he agrees that the studies show there is probably little risk from low dose radiation such as might be found in the basements of most homes. Given that I will concede the point that low dose exposures are of minimal risk. He also points out, however, that there aren’t any conclusive studies that show a definite benefit derived from such exposures either. He summed it up with “these people are totally crackers.”

    So my opinion has changed: The folks who willingly pay for the priveledge of sitting in radon gas filled mines aren’t dumbasses for exposing themselves to a known carcinogen, but because they think it actually does them any good and is a worthwhile way to spend their money. That makes them less of a dumbass than I previously thought, but still dumbasses just the same.

    2) Gasteiner Heilstollen (warm and humid radon inhalation therapy) is the world wide (!) biggest treatment facility for Ancylosing Spondylitis. For 50 years we had 250.000 patients doing 2.5 million treatments. Our average patient is coming for 8 times (x 10 treatments) for

    a) pain reduction (up to 100%) for months (up to three years, in average 9 months) and
    b) reduction of drugs (up to 100%) (the same time)

    This fact only shows there are a lot of dumbasses in the world.

    In Gastein valley about 40.000 patients are treated per year by radon therapy (radon water, radon inhalation) and it is a well established therapy for more then 600 years.

    Popularity and how long it’s been practiced doesn’t prove its effectiveness. Accupuncture is also very popular and has been around for hundreds of years and yet it also suffers from being inconclusively proven to do much of anything though some studies do suggest that it can be useful in pain control much as you suggest radon gas can be. The problem is that pain is a very subjective thing and can be easily affected by the power of suggestion. It is, as the old cliche goes, largely in your head as the phenomena of the “phantom limb”—where an amputee feels pain in a leg or arm that no longer exists—has shown us.

    I talk to our patients very often. Sometimes people are crying when talking about “their story

  37. Radon significantly influences free oxygen radical transformations, nucleic acid repair, immunological processes, etc. It is a rare gas and does not react chemically with any compound in the body.

    Could somebody please explain these two contradictory statements?  If there is no chemical reaction, how does it do anything?

    Sorry, I’m not buying it.  Any time I see a purported treatment that claims both to be efficacious AND to have NO side effects whatsoever, I’m suspicious.  Especially when its proponents claim it does wonderful things but can’t say how.

  38. Could somebody please explain these two contradictory statements?  If there is no chemical reaction, how does it do anything?

    You’re confusing the chemical properties of inert radon gas, which does not react, with the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation, which is essential for biology to function. Without LDR cells and organisms cease to function. At supplemental levels above background, the molecular and cellular responses are beneficial – high doses are detrimental.

    See our partial database Sections 1.2, 1.3 and 3.2.2 (3.3 provides mechanistic studies of cells in culture)

    (Although it seems that you haven’t looked at sources previously provided.)

    Regards, Jim

  39. Jim, you’ve got a lot of studies that “suggest” benefit, but nothing that seems too sure of itself yet. Keep digging.

    GM, it’s true that radon itself doesn’t chemically react with anything, but it breaks down very quickly releasing alpha particles in the process and producing radioactive byproducts as I mentioned in my earlier reply.

    As it turns out there are enzymes in our system that run around patching mutated DNA strands created by low-level radiation such as the sort we’re exposed to every day. Cancer is what happens when there’s so much damaged DNA that the enzymes can’t keep up with it.

    The theory behind radon treatment seems to be that by intentionally taking in radon gas and exposing your cells to the radioactivity it generates you force your body’s repair system into action and while fixing the damage inflicted by the alpha particles your body decides that it may as well fix a few other problems it had been meaning to get around to once it stopped sitting on the couch watching late-night television. You know, because it’s already up anyway.

    Now, whether it “significantly” influences free oxygen radical transformations or does any of the other stuff they claim is true is still yet to be proven to any great degree though there are studies that “suggest” there may be something behind it.

  40. GeekMom – I don’t think it’s necessarily a contradictory statement.  Radon is one of the noble gases and avoids chemically reacting with common elements such as those found in the human body.  It can, however, serve as a catalyst or influence other reactions such as, say…hmmm…the development of cancerous tumors.

    Looking back through this thread I see that that the Radon mine team has some fairly intelligent and strong proponents.  Statistically speaking, wouldn’t it be far more effective for them to put their talents to use in promoting and/or searching for a treatment with more promise than this?  I think that is the point I was trying to make when I said that this thread had taken on somewhat of a religious fanaticism.

    captcha = ‘audience’ Yes.  It has grown with this thread.

  41. The theory behind radon treatment seems to be that by intentionally taking in radon gas and exposing your cells to the radioactivity it generates you force your body’s repair system into action …

    Sounds just like another version of homeopathy to me.  You know, the classic “it helps your body’s own immune processes.”  Then if it doesn’t work, you can just blame that particular body instead of the supposed treatment.  “I guess your own immune system wasn’t strong enough, even with help.”

    Okay, so the radon gas itself doesn’t react chemically, but it supposedly provokes chemical reactions.  I think that’s hair-splitting there, that just tries to make the product sound as “safe” and “natural” as any other one advertising “no side effects.”

    If this is all about free radicals, why not just eat a bunch of blueberries, or anything else with antioxidants?

    (Jim, you’re right, I haven’t bothered to read any of the supporting materials.  I prefer to see a higher-level explanation that makes sense first.)


  42. You’ve gone from being uneducated, to being dishonest. I suppose that’s the “evil” part.

    Didn’t want you to drink from a fire hose, but it’s like asking a rock to drink.

    Need double blind? Doesn’t help. Need to prove LDR stimulates enzymes, etc? Lower cancer rates? Cure infections? etc. etc. You ignore the data. Or you don’t understand science. Or just another shill for the drug makers?

    Why would you think Bob Park would know? He’s the establishment, mostly just making clever remarks about obvious nonsense, and some on actual science, but with some rather uninformed remarks about areas of science he doesn’t understand (even including some physics, which is rather inexcusable!?) (Used to subscribe. Appreciated the witticisms, but got tired of having to figure out he didn’t know what he was talking about in too many serious science topics.) But in fairness to Bob, I don’t suppose you asked him to review the science either.

    I also have to weigh your view of his half-baked conclusion against your own inability to read or understand the data.

    If you’re ever interested in understanding the science, and you have actually read any of the scientific evidence, you can ask questions. You have wasted enough time of serious people that have direct knowledge and responsibilities by your lack of intellectual integrity. I haven’t run out of pearls, but my arm is tired. grin

  43. If you misrepresent or don’t understand what is being said in brief summary statements before you are willing read the substantial evidence, you are not likely to get there.

    That assumes there is a there there.

    I hold no particular views on the therapeutic benefits of LDR, but the way Jim purports himself doesn’t inspire confidence. Perhaps somebody without a vested interest can make a more objective case for it?

    captcha: science !!!

  44. Hope everyone is doing well.  I told my sweet grandma that I was an atheist.  She tried to argue about my non-belief.  I just smiled and said I love you Grandma.  Cool?

  45. There’s a saying in toxicology, “The dose makes the poison” where for example, some nutrients in high doses become toxic. But it’s hard to think of ionizing radiation as a nutrient.  And as for “stimulating the immune system” there’s enough of that going on all the time from the various insults our bodies must endure.

    Radon decays into radioactive polonium and alpha particles, then into an isotope of lead and then a few other (radioactive) things, none of them pretty, until it becomes stable pb206.  This would all happen in the lungs to any radon atom that first decays there, because polonium is a solid, not a gas, and would tend to become lodged in the alveoli (which are after all evolved for gas exchange.)

    So the “establishment” says this is a bad thing, but we all know better because they don’t want us to know the truth.  Hey, look at all these studies!  Why not waste hours poring over them even though no one has advanced a reasonable explanation of why chromosome damage and toxic residue would be a good thing?  And in spite of epidemiologic data on lung cancer and home radon? (Yes, I do think that danger is overblown.)

    Bottom line, spending a few hours a year in a mine is probably not dangerous because your body will repair the damage.  But brother Occam suggests that the placebo effect is the most likely explanation for any symptom relief, because it is the simplest.  Pain is subjective, and so is pain relief.

  46. Pain is subjective, and so is pain relief.

    Pain has real causes and is real to someone feeling it. It can be blocked through distraction. There is an article in the August issue of Scientific American on Virtual-Reality Therapy. The authors developed a video game to afford relief to burn victims undergoing wound care. (Music isn’t enough for the particular therapies they described.) For the burn victims, they measured abatement through as questionnaire. In a follow up study on healthy volunteers they used MRI to monitor brain activity during induced pain—with and without the video game. They concluded that the video game grabs bandwidth leaving the brain has fewer resources to process pain signals. To me that looks objective rather than subjective.


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