Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inhale that's good for you

It was tough to parse upon first reading.

I came across a posting about a bizarre health trend from a few years ago.  I've tried to see if it's still in action but could find nothing one way or another.

Apparently, people have taken to inhaling radon.

Yes, that radon.  One of the noble gases that is a highly radioactive product of decaying uranium.  Good for arthritis, though.  And cancer.  And MS.  And asthma.  And anything having to do with the immune system.
So say the owners of Free Enterprise Mine in Montana.  They've had people visit from all over, swearing that a good ol' lungful of radon cures what ails them. 
Seems it's not a new idea, either.  The practice of radon-breathing goes back thousands of years to underground hot spring spas in Russia and Eastern Europe.  What's more, visitors are not stopping at just breathing in the radon and frankly, why would you?  A few of them are drinking water from the mines, claiming that it helps with prostate, urinary, and stomach issues.  Geez, maybe I'll give it a try.
Others take radioactive, green mud from the mine and rub it on their skin to help with dermatological problems.  Others still claim that the mines improve the health of their dogs, especially those with arthritis.  That last part gets to me.  I don't care if people willingly give themselves radiation poisoning but leave the dogs out of it. Yet all the feedback from the mine visitors has been nothing but positive.  Doctors, of course, are chalking it up to placebo effect and are lining up for the new cancer patients they plan to see emerging from the mines.

I wouldn't do it.  I wouldn't recommend anyone I care about do it, either.  I will, however, grant these people one point and that is that medical science, like any other branch of research, doesn't know everything.  How many times have we thought that we had it right when it was really wrong?  Back in the 1950s, doctors suggested cigarettes for stress.  Can you imagine?  All our toothpaste and public drinking water comes with fluoride.  Now we're finding out that fluoride is poisonous and may be behind any number of health problems in people.  So who's to say that small doses of radiation might actually turn out to be good for you?  Might even mutate you into a superhero.
That's a complete fabrication, of course.  Mutations are really terrible things that don't live very long.  But that doesn't mean it won't help your gout. 

I shudder to do this, but for a skeptic-centered discussion, here's James Randi's forum on the matter.

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