Most believers in the healing qualities of radiation are suffering from a chronic inflammatory disease: arthritis, asthma or psoriasis, for example. The gas, they argue, alleviates their problems for months, which is why they lay in bubbling radon water offered by some healing spas. In Bad Kreuznach, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, brave spa guests even trek into the tunnels of an abandoned mercury mine, attracted by the radon-filled air in the mountain. Are they crazy?

As has now become clear, these people are right: Radioactivity is good for them.

These are the initial findings of an ongoing large-scale trial conducted by researchers from four German institutes. The leader is radiobiologist Claudia Fournier, from the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt.

Hundreds of patients in the spa resort of Bad Steven, in Upper Franconia, allowed themselves to be thoroughly examined for the study. The researchers found that after a series of radon baths, the blood of the test subjects had fewer signs of inflammation. Their immune defense, which is often in overdrive due to their illnesses, also seemed to have calmed down.

Accompanying experiments on arthritic mice delivered a further surprise. After the experiment, bone loss, which typically goes along with joint inflammation, was also reduced.

Still, radon is in no way harmless and may cause lung cancer in higher doses. How can this same gas have beneficial effects, mitigate inflammation and strengthen bones?

Its advantages for humans and mice have not yet been confirmed beyond all doubt, and further experiments are necessary. But biologist Fournier is reasonably sure that her results point in a new direction: “In low doses, radiation works differently than we had expected,” she says.

Source: Chernobyl Hints Radiation May Be Less Dangerous than Thought – SPIEGEL ONLINE