Tom Scott

The tunnel where people pay to inhale radioactive gas

In most of the world, inhaling radon for pain relief sounds like a bizarre idea. In some places, though, it’s so accepted that it’s prescribed by doctors and covered by health insurance. And I have no idea how to talk about it. Thanks to the team at the Radonstollen in Bad Kreuznach: you can find out more about them at

The paper I reference in the video is “Radon Exposure—Therapeutic Effect and Cancer Risk” by Maier et al, — it is, as far as I can tell, the most comprehensive analysis of all the studies so far, and I recommend reading not just the paper but also the extensive bibliography. As mentioned in the video, they claim no conflict of interest but some of the funding does ultimately come from the radon therapy industry.

There are a LOT of papers about this, and about radiation hormesis. A Google Scholar search will rapidly send you down a rabbit hole of “this seems like it works” papers, followed by “this study had a very small sample size” or “this study had flaws” meta-analysis. I am not qualified to analyse their quality and conflicts of interest, so in this case, departing from my usual policy, I’m leaving that exploration as an exercise for the reader!

Location camera operator: Richard Bielau
Producer: Maximilian Thesseling of Klein Aber
Editor for Bad Kreuznach footage: Isla McTear

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