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How is this place with radon carcinogenic?

In response to the article that I wrote last week about the decommissioned mines in Montana that offer radon therapy, a colleague wrote to inform me that "I have been working on the radon therapy. there are health spas in the mines in Germany and Austria that offer "therapeutic radon baths". covered by health insurance in both countries.

In Europe, since the Greeks and Romans, there is a long tradition of research of thermal springs for their healing and soothing properties. Hot springs (baths in Latin) were considered sacred and exposure to mineral waters was considered a cure. In the nineteenth century, names such as Baden Baden, Wiesbaden, Marienbad and Bad Gastein were famous throughout Europe for the personalities of high society and royalty who frequented them. ("Bad / Baden" means "bath / baths").

Online, I found the elegant and brilliant website of one of these spas, in Bad Gastein, in the Austrian Alps. In the Middle Ages, gold was mined on the site. Now, Bad Gastein is a modern and upscale company that attracts thousands of people a year. The pictures on the website show pretty young people lounging in the thermal waters, taking the modern train that takes them 2 kilometers underground to the healing gallery, where they lie on beds and absorb humid air warmed by radon.

The website tells us that it was noted in the Middle Ages that miners were "incredibly free of ailments" and that the mine gallery "has been used successfully for over 60 years to treat chronic diseases".

According to what can be inferred from the website, radon treatment has a curative effect on the reduction of chronic inflammation and allergy relief, musculoskeletal conditions and rheumatic, skin conditions, respiratory conditions and pain.

In addition, more than 100,000 scientific studies have investigated the effects of the Gastein Healing Gallery and it has been determined that in some medical areas the climate of the Gastein Healing Gallery has superior benefits to many 39; others. conventional therapies known. "

Although the tide of this statement does not inspire confidence, the 100,000 scientific studies are certainly attracting attention. However, the website gives no reference to this extraordinarily high number of studies that have examined the "effects of the Gastein Healing Gallery". In fact, a search of the medical literature in PubMed revealed a total of three studies of the benefits of radon therapy, focusing on rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic diseases and osteoporosis. The results were negative or mixed. The studies can be read here, here and here.

It is striking that no information is given on radon levels in the mine; However, the brochure states that visitors take 3 to 4 hour sessions of therapy each week at the Museum and that "the greatest benefits are achieved with 10 to 12 sessions over a period of three weeks". Thus, the treatment plan limits the number of hours of exposure to "light alpha radiation" during a visit. (I sent an email to the Bad Gastein website for information on mine levels, but I have not received a response).

A radon spa in Montana – the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine – provides information about the levels of radon exposure that visitors are exposed to, and at least attempts to address the problem of risk. "The tests confirm average radon levels of about 1700 pC / l of air – with normal fluctuations ranging from 700 to 2200 pC / l of air." The Montana website concludes that "radon exposure is perfectly safe with a quantity two times lower than the natural background radiation that one could receive each year."

It is interesting to note that the flawless Bad Gastein brochure makes no mention of the fact that radon is considered a carcinogen of the human lung by health agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Institute. Environmental Protection Agency. There is therefore an apparent contradiction between the reported benefits of radon therapy for health and the high-profile radon hazards in homes. How to reconcile these two different effects attributed to radon?

The apparent contradiction can be largely resolved by appreciating two facts.

First, radon levels in most homes in the United States are quite low – about three times more than the concentration in outdoor air. And the dangers of residential radon for the majority of the population have probably been overestimated. The most important is the fact that the risk of lung cancer due to radon is much greater in smokers than in people who have never smoked. The effects of radon exposure in nonsmokers are considerably lower, as shown in a dozen studies. In fact, public health experts have convincingly argued that the best way to reduce the number of lung cancers caused by radon is to get smokers to quit.

Secondly, it is the cumulative dose to which one is exposed during one's lifetime that is considered to be a determinant of the risk of lung cancer. Thus, a few hours of high radon exposure in a year will not result in a large increase in the average exposure level. This is recognized within the limits of time spent in the gallery of mines.

In other words, the basic principle is that "the dose produces the poison" – where the dose is supposed to be the average dose. These words belong to the Swiss physicist-alchemist Paracelsus of the sixteenth century. It turns out that Paracelsus has studied the health of minors, among other professions, and has identified several lung diseases of miners and has recommended better ventilation to prevent them.

The question of whether there are real benefits to "taking the waters" in a deep mine can only be determined by carefully designed studies examining the short and long term effects. If positive effects are demonstrated, it should be determined whether they are due to radon, salts and minerals in the water or to the soothing effects of hot water. Or if they are simply due to the placebo effect, since people who visit the spa are ready with the icy publicity to believe that they will experience relief from their symptoms.

Post Scriptum:

The Bad Gastein management responded: "The radon level in the healing gallery is 44 kBq / m³.If you go 10 to 12 times in the mountain of the healing gallery, the dose is 1.8-2 , 2 mSv is less than if you get 1 CT X-ray. "

Note: in Europe, the comma indicates a decimal point.

Assuming this is correct, the increase in radon exposure in a person who spends 10 to 12 hours in the Gastein gallery

during a year is about twice the average annual exposure to radon.

Geoffrey Kabat is a cancer epidemiologist and author, more recently, of Proper Risk Management: Understanding the Science of Elusive Risk to Health.

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How is this place with radon carcinogenic?

In response to the article that I wrote last week about the decommissioned mines in Montana that offer radon therapy, a colleague wrote to inform me that "I have been working on the radon therapy. there are health spas in the mines in Germany and Austria that offer "therapeutic radon baths". covered by health insurance in both countries.

In Europe, since the Greeks and Romans, there is a long tradition of research of thermal springs for their healing and soothing properties. Hot springs (baths in Latin) were considered sacred and exposure to mineral waters was considered a cure. In the nineteenth century, names such as Baden Baden, Wiesbaden, Marienbad and Bad Gastein were famous throughout Europe for the personalities of high society and royalty who frequented them. ("Bad / Baden" means "bath / baths").

Online, I found the elegant and brilliant website of one of these spas, in Bad Gastein, in the Austrian Alps. In the Middle Ages, gold was mined on the site. Now, Bad Gastein is a modern and upscale company that attracts thousands of people a year. The pictures on the website show pretty young people lounging in the thermal waters, taking the modern train that takes them 2 kilometers underground to the healing gallery, where they lie on beds and absorb humid air warmed by radon.

The website tells us that it was noted in the Middle Ages that miners were "incredibly free of ailments" and that the mine gallery "has been used successfully for over 60 years to treat chronic diseases".

According to what can be inferred from the website, radon treatment has a curative effect on the reduction of chronic inflammation and allergy relief, musculoskeletal conditions and rheumatic, skin conditions, respiratory conditions and pain.

In addition, more than 100,000 scientific studies have investigated the effects of the Gastein Healing Gallery and it has been determined that in some medical areas the climate of the Gastein Healing Gallery has superior benefits to many 39; others. conventional therapies known. "

Although the tide of this statement does not inspire confidence, the 100,000 scientific studies are certainly attracting attention. However, the website gives no reference to this extraordinarily high number of studies that have examined the "effects of the Gastein Healing Gallery". In fact, a search of the medical literature in PubMed revealed a total of three studies of the benefits of radon therapy, focusing on rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic diseases and osteoporosis. The results were negative or mixed. The studies can be read here, here and here.

It is striking that no information is given on radon levels in the mine; However, the brochure states that visitors take 3 to 4 hour sessions of therapy each week at the Museum and that "the greatest benefits are achieved with 10 to 12 sessions over a period of three weeks". Thus, the treatment plan limits the number of hours of exposure to "light alpha radiation" during a visit. (I sent an email to the Bad Gastein website for information on mine levels, but I have not received a response).

A radon spa in Montana – the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine – provides information about the levels of radon exposure that visitors are exposed to, and at least attempts to address the problem of risk. "The tests confirm average radon levels of about 1700 pC / l of air – with normal fluctuations ranging from 700 to 2200 pC / l of air." The Montana website concludes that "radon exposure is perfectly safe with a quantity two times lower than the natural background radiation that one could receive each year."

It is interesting to note that the flawless Bad Gastein brochure makes no mention of the fact that radon is considered a carcinogen of the human lung by health agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Institute. Environmental Protection Agency. There is therefore an apparent contradiction between the reported benefits of radon therapy for health and the high-profile radon hazards in homes. How to reconcile these two different effects attributed to radon?

The apparent contradiction can be largely resolved by appreciating two facts.

First, radon levels in most homes in the United States are quite low – about three times more than the concentration in outdoor air. And the dangers of residential radon for the majority of the population have probably been overestimated. The most important is the fact that the risk of lung cancer due to radon is much greater in smokers than in people who have never smoked. The effects of radon exposure in nonsmokers are considerably lower, as shown in a dozen studies. In fact, public health experts have convincingly argued that the best way to reduce the number of lung cancers caused by radon is to get smokers to quit.

Secondly, it is the cumulative dose to which one is exposed during one's lifetime that is considered to be a determinant of the risk of lung cancer. Thus, a few hours of high radon exposure in a year will not result in a large increase in the average exposure level. This is recognized within the limits of time spent in the gallery of mines.

In other words, the basic principle is that "the dose produces the poison" – where the dose is supposed to be the average dose. These words belong to the Swiss physicist-alchemist Paracelsus of the sixteenth century. It turns out that Paracelsus has studied the health of minors, among other professions, and has identified several lung diseases of miners and has recommended better ventilation to prevent them.

The question of whether there are real benefits to "taking the waters" in a deep mine can only be determined by carefully designed studies examining the short and long term effects. If positive effects are demonstrated, it should be determined whether they are due to radon, salts and minerals in the water or to the soothing effects of hot water. Or if they are simply due to the placebo effect, since people who visit the spa are ready with the icy publicity to believe that they will experience relief from their symptoms.

Post Scriptum:

The Bad Gastein management responded: "The radon level in the healing gallery is 44 kBq / m³.If you go 10 to 12 times in the mountain of the healing gallery, the dose is 1.8-2 , 2 mSv is less than if you get 1 CT X-ray. "

Note: in Europe, the comma indicates a decimal point.

Assuming this is correct, the increase in radon exposure in a person who spends 10 to 12 hours in the Gastein gallery

during a year is about twice the average annual exposure to radon.

Geoffrey Kabat is a cancer epidemiologist and author, more recently, of Proper Risk Management: Understanding the Science of Elusive Risk to Health.