COVID-19 has renewed interest in radiation, but doctors warn against pilgrimages to mines filled with radon


Boulder, Monte. — Twice a year, Brian Tichenor travels 1,200 miles one way from his home in Kansas to an abandoned uranium mine in Montana, where he sits in an elevator 85 feet below the surface in radioactive radon to relieve him Painful chronic eye disease.

“I found it like I think many people do,” said 67-year-old Tichenor. “This is the point of despair of traditional treatment.”

Although radon is generally considered a harmful gas removed from the basement, people in pain travel to Montana and spend money to breathe, drink, and bathe its radioactive particles. Travelers see radon exposure as low-dose radiation therapy for a range of health problems.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization attribute the gas to The second leading cause of lung cancerAlthough cancer doctors use radiation as a front-line treatment to destroy dangerous cells, its role in treating other diseases at low doses in the United States is controversial.The pandemic has revitalized this debate Clinical Trials Test whether low-dose radiation can help treat COVID-19 patients around the world.

But radon is different Radiation used by U.S. doctors, Radiation experts warned. Radon is just a radioactive chemical element, because it is a gas, so it can be inhaled, so it is particularly dangerous.Sitting in a room full of radon gas and performing targeted radiotherapy in a medical institution are as different as “chalk and cheese”, saying Brian Maples, Professor of Radiation Oncology, University of Rochester.

“In clinical treatment, we know exactly what the dose is, and we know exactly where it goes,” he said.

Marples said that most of the arguments for the therapeutic use of radon rely on historical reports, which is different from evidence-based research on clinical radiation. Nevertheless, some radiation experts disagree about what level of radon should be considered dangerous and whether it will have a positive effect on health.

Another problem: Radon disposal in mines is largely unregulated. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services does not have the authority to license or license these mines, but the department’s spokesperson Jon Ebelt said that exposure to adverse health risks is well known. The EPA also has no authority to impose restrictions on radon gas.

Despite this, every year travelers head to western Montana, where there are four radon-flooded inactive mines, less than 11 miles from the basin and rural Boulder communities. Day tickets range from US$7 to US$15. When the radioactive elements in the bedrock of the mountain decay, the gas forms naturally.

Outside the Merry Widow Health Mine, a billboard-like banner reads “The Fountain of Youth. Feel young again!” In the tunnel, water seeps from the rock wall. Those who want a full soak can slide into a claw-foot bathtub filled with radon-contaminated water. People immerse their feet and hands in the water, or simply sit down and do a puzzle.On a bench Forbes article Clinical trials have shown that low-dose radiation may be a treatment for COVID-19.

For 69-year-old boss Chang Kim, his business is a mission, especially for those suffering from chronic diseases such as arthritis or diabetes. Those who swear by radon therapy say that at low doses, a little stress on the body triggers the immune system to re-adapt and reduce inflammation.

“People who come to the mine are not stupid,” Jin said. “People’s lives are better because of them.”

14 years ago, when he and his wife Veronica Kim lived in Seattle, he learned about these mines, and Veronica’s hands and feet were crumpled by connective tissue disease. Traditional medicine does not work. Since then, after being in the mine twice a year, Veronica smiled as she showed her hands.

“They are no longer deformed,” she said, adding that she has been able to reduce the use of meloxicam, which is a drug that reduces pain and swelling.

Tichenor said that going to a mine containing radon for more than six years was one of the few things to calm his scleritis, a disease that caused pain, which he described as an ice axe stabbing his eye. As for its potential dangers, he said radon treatment is like any medicine: too much can cause harm.

He and other radon users pointed out that in European countries such as Germany, the treatment there may be controversial, but The doctor can still prescribe radon Treatment for various conditions Insurance may even cover.

In the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency insists that even if everyone encounters radon in their lives, there is no risk of any degree of radon exposure. The agency pointed out that radon causes approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.It recommends that homeowners with radon levels of 4 picocuries or higher should Add radon reduction systemIn contrast, the owner of the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine, Montana’s oldest radon treatment mine, stated that their mines average about 1,700.

Monique Mandali said the federal guidelines are “a bunch of nonsense.” Mandali lives in Helena, about 40 minutes away from the mine. She tried to take three courses of Free Enterprise during the year-25 hours of exposure lasted for 10 days because of arthritis in her back.

“People say,’OK, you know, but you might get lung cancer.’ I replied,’I’m 74 years old. Who cares now?'” she said. “Compared with other western medicines, I would rather take the risk of using radon to treat arthritis.”

Anton Brooks, Formerly a scientist of the US Department of Energy, once studied Low-dose radiation, Is one of those people who think the federal government’s stance on radon-free levels is too excessive.He pointed research shows Low-dose radiation may open up pathways in the body that may have a protective effect. Although what is considered a “low dose” depends on who is talking.

“If you want to enter the radon mine twice a year, I would say, well, that’s not too much,” he said. “If you want to live there, I would say that is too much.”

In the early 1900s, before antibiotics became popular, Low-dose radiation It has been used to treat pneumonia and is reported to relieve respiratory symptoms. Since then, fear has largely untapped the therapeutic potential of low-dose radiation, the doctor said. Muhammad Khan, Associate Professor of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. But during the pandemic, healthcare providers have been re-examining clinical radiology as they struggled to find treatments while hospital patients were dying.

So far Khan’s trial Patients who received targeted low-dose radiation to their lungs left oxygen and were discharged from the hospital earlier than patients who did not receive treatment. Khan said more research is needed, but it may eventually expand the effect of clinical radiation on other diseases.

“Some people think that all radiation is the same thing. All radiation is like the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it is obviously not the case,” Khan said. “If you give radiation to experts and the right people—we use it wisely, and we use it carefully—you can balance risks and benefits.”

The sign of Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine is a miner jumping in the air on crutches. About 70 years ago, a woman said that her bursitis disappeared after many visits to the mine. Thousands of people followed suit.

“We believe in it,” said Leah Lewis, who owns the mine jointly with her husband Ryan Lewis and relies on it to help treat her Crohn’s disease.

The couple lived on the site and grew up in Boulder, entering the tunnel just like their 5-year-old daughter is now. Her husband’s great-grandfather owns the mine, and the company has been in the family ever since.

“No one came back and said they had lung cancer here,” Ryan Lewis said. “If they did, they would shut us down so quickly.”

Except for the billboard outside Helena, the family did not really advertise the company. Customers tend to find them. Ryan Lewis said that, like many companies, Free Enterprise was hit last year because people cancelled plans due to the pandemic. He said that before that, the business broke even, adding that radon may be “difficult to sell.”

But he said that as long as it does not spend money, the family of cattle farmers plans to continue operations.

“Land is an investment, and we want to keep it at home,” he said. “And there are a lot of people using it, there are some responsibilities there.”



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