Radiation Hormesis Published 1981
It was not until Dr. T D Luckey published his Radiation Hormesis book in 1981 that serious study of the subject was restarted after a break of nearly half a century. Political propaganda seriously affected the advancement of science and it has been very difficult to do low level radiation research since 1940.
The Principle of Hormesis and Dose:
Hormesis refers to the positive effect of poisons when delivered in very low doses. The 20th century had a primitive way of classifying things into either poisonous or non-poisonous categories. It has been well known for centuries that “The dose makes the poison” To quote Dr. T D Luckey …
The Paracelsus paradigm, “the dose is everything,” is ageless. This many-splendored view of the history of hormology highlights my contributions. The more succinct statement of Dr. R. Arndt of the Psychology Department of the University of Greifswald is paraphrased: “unusually low doses of a toxicant should be beneficial” (Schulz, 1918). The concept that small doses of poisons are stimulatory was verified experimentally by Dr. H. Schulz (1888) (Pharmacology Department, University of Greifswald) with mercury, chromium, arsenic and iodine in yeast cultures. This established the Arndt-Shultz law, generalized and paraphrased: sufficiently diluted toxicants should have a beneficial effect on the organism. In Sept. 1979, I visited the campus and was keynote lecturer at the II Symposium of Gastrointestinale Mikroflora des Menchen, Greifswald, DDR.
Applied to Nuclear Radiation, hormesis refers to the non lethal, health enhancing effects observed to happen when low levels of nuclear radiation are present.
Historical Research Uncovered by Dr. T. D. Luckey
One of the first studies in radiobiology (1898) found that X-irradiated algae grew faster than unirradiated control groups. Stimulated growth was noted in trees (1908) and increased life span in invertebrates (1918) and insects (1919). X-Rays stimulated seedlings (1927), plant growth (1937), along with guinea pigs, rabbits and mice (1940’s). Increased life span was the rule in low dose irradiated rats, dogs, and even house flies (1950’s). In a 1981 monograph (CRC Press), T. Luckey revived the term “hormesis,” but this time with ionizing radiation and backed it up with a review of over 1250 articles from 85 years of experimental biology.
Hormesis Healing in Modern Medicine
Outside North America in Europe and Asia the healing geothermal hot spring is a mainstream and popular treatment for arthritis. Polish, Czech Republic, Austrian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese and German medical researchers have carried out experiments that validate arthritis treament using the radon rich hot spring therapies. There are springs in Poland, Germany, Austria, Greece, Russia and in fact in most European countries as well as Japan and China that have been used for literally thousands of years to cure the effects of arthritis. In Europe and Asia today these same springs are used by the medical professions to treat arthritis. The reason it works is radiation hormesis and the radioactive element in all these springs was found to be mostly radon gas. Is radon gas a healer or a threat? It certainly can be a healer for arthritis. Although we debate radiation hormesis in Canada and the USA, in most of the world the use of hormesis for treating arthritis is ancient. It goes back to 6000 BC at least in Turkey where ancient hot spring spas were uncovered by archaeologists. The question of its danger in basements is debated in the scientific community.
Do Scientist Agree that Radon is Dangerous for Homeowners?
There is little disagreement that breathing the hundreds of pCi/L of radon that caused thousands of uranium miners to get fatal lung cancer is definitely harmful. However miners are also in contact with carcinogenic rare earth metals and other dangerous heavy metals. By the 1960s uranium mining was using carcinogenic solvents down in the mine itself. Uranium mining is dangerous by general agreement. However the safety of radon in homes is an area of controversy.
Many scientists disagree with the USA EPA about what the level of radon should be before it should be reduced.
The EPA studied the lung cancer risk of uranium miners exposed to 400 pCi/L. They assume the risk of a home owner exposed to 4 pCi/L to be one hundredth as much. Based on this assumption, the EPA guideline level of 4 pCi/L represents a much greater risk than allowed for other environmental pollutants.
Other scientists have tested more than 70,000 homes across the United States. Cohen collected and published a huge USA study in 1995. This study of all USA county radon data shows the counties with the highest average radon levels had the lowest incidence of cancer. Radon showed a hormetic effect to prevent lung cancer. Perhaps, breathing the low levels of radon found in the home environment, might not be harmful. If the levels are low, such as is the case with radon therapy for arthritis or typical levels in our homes there is no danger. As far as radon safety in houses goes, there is conflicting research, but the largest study by Cohen which includes all the counties in the USA shows a bio-positive effect for radon in almost every county. A danger for smokers appears to be true in some counties. There is also evidence that nicotine damages the DNA repair mechanism.
There is a multi billion dollar industry called the “radon mitigation industry” which proposes to pump radon from all of our basements. When looking at research on the effects of radon it is important to make sure that the research is not funded by this industry!
8000 Years of Radon and Uranium Therapy
There is historical evidence that radon and uranium have been in use for therapeutic purposes in Europe for thousands of years. Use of Radioactive Substances in the 1500s to reduce arthritis and improve health was happening in Germany in a silver mining town. People drank water from the mine and had yellow powder (uranium oxide) from the mine sewed into pockets in their clothing to treat arthritis.
This is a quote from the article 100 years of radon therapy by Klaus Becker.
It was generally known since the Middle Ages that the miners in the silver mines of Saxony/Germany and nearby St. Joachimsthal in Bohemia (now Czech Republic), although working under very difficult and generally unhealthy conditions and frequently suffering (and dying early) from lung diseases ( K. Becker 2003), had less problems with arthritic and similar diseases than the rest of the population. Therefore, the miners had sometimes uranium containing ore residues sewn into their clothes. They drank water which originated in the mines, and the local population used pitchblende (U ore) packages for the external treatment of inflammatory diseases (W. Schüttmann 1987). A C. Bruschius already wrote in 1548 in a description of the high-radon Fichtelgebirge/Germany: “Here people get very old, have few diseases, and recover quickly if they have any.”
On the Greek Island of Icharus there is a radon hot spring that has been popular for over 2500 years. It was used by the ancient Greeks. This healing hot spring has both radon and radium and it is still popular today. Such traditional knowledge of Radon therapy explains why Europe supports spa therapy in their medical systems.