The radon game

If there is one ‘truism’ – something obvious and neither new or interesting – it is that the vast majority of people rely on authority figures in forming their own opinions. What else can we expect when our education system at its core (the tests) punishes students for being wrong. The SAT and ACT regimes are long lists of things to be memorized, statements by authority figures that students must regurgitate to land in a good college. It instills students with fear of being wrong even as mistakes are the best teachers around.

I long ago read a book (I should stop right there) by Edward Bernays called “Propaganda.” I would imagine at a website like this many others have read it as well. It was an interesting book in that Bernays, writing in the 1920s, came right out and said things that were known to be true among insiders, but were rarely spoken outside of the club (the men of his time who managed public opinion). I cite here a passage that appears right at the opening:

This general principle that men are very largely actuated by motives which they conceal from themselves is as true of mass as of individual psychology. It is evident that the successful propagandist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons that men give for what they do.

No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by group leaders in who it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clichés and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders. …

The important thing for the statesman of our age is not so much to know how to please the public, but how to sway the public. In theory, this education might be done by means of learned pamphlets explaining the intricacies of public question. In actual fact, it can be done only by meeting the conditions of the public mind, by creating circumstances which set up trains of thought, by dramatizing personalities, by establishing contact with the group leaders who control the opinions of their public.

I see all around me people who are not moved by evidence before their own eyes, but instead turn to “experts.” Anyone, for example, can Google Paul McCartney’s childhood photos and find that “he” is a set of twins. But unless some authority figure steps forward and admits this in a place that people regard as credible (itself a confidence game), people will assume their own eyes are lying to them.

The radon hoax

I am on a website called “Nextdoor.” It is just a marketing device but I have found it useful in selling or giving away things I don’t need. The site is littered with advertisers posing as real people. But one thread caught my eye – someone wanted advice on living in the foothills above Denver, having just moved here. That set off a long, long series of comments, as people love to give advice. I would not have participated except that someone brought up the subject of radon. I volunteered that radon is a scam, and not to worry about it, and for sure do not invest your money in equipment to mitigate it.

That set off a firestorm. The upshot was that authority figures say radon is dangerous and must be mitigated.

Radon is a gas, a daughter of uranium. It occurs all over the planet. As with anything from water to heat itself, in large quantities it can be harmful. But in small quantities as we find in our homes, it is harmless. No one has ever been made ill by radon in the home. There is no study, scientific or otherwise, anywhere, that offers evidence to that effect.

Some years back I needed to dispose of a house I inherited from my brother in Livingston, Montana. It was occupied by a renter. I listed it with a Realtor@, found a buyer, and before closing was told that I needed to spend $1,400 to mitigate the radon accumulating in the basement. I refused, and told the buyer that if it was a real problem, he should mitigate. (There is, thankfully, no law forcing me to invest in the equipment.)

Later I learned that the Realtor@ who brought us together had approached the renter and warned her that her children were in danger. Her response … “My babies! My babies!” I was faced with a choice of either seeing the deal collapse, or installing the overpriced and useless equipment. I swallowed hard, and bought the equipment. I am still angry about that.

Three things were evident to me from that experience:

  1. The matter of reliance on authority figures over trusting oneself, as mentioned above with the Bernays quote, is evident all around us. People do not, cannot, think for themselves.
  2. When large amounts of money are in play, there are people scheming to get their hands on it. I do not know and will not research this, but suggest that the only time radon mitigation equipment is ever installed in homes is when homes change hands. That is when the money is in a pile, and the sharks are feeding. No one of any intelligence would install unneeded and overpriced equipment in their basement or crawl space without incentive, in this case, fear of a deal falling through. (One other example of a scam that is common in real estate closings … title insurance. Another day.) In my case, I would be willing to bet that the Realtor@ who went to the renter to scare her into forcing me to buy the radon equipment took a cut. How much? Wild ass guess – 30%? (The same bet applies to title insurance.)
  3. In the Nextdoor thread I was repeatedly reminded that CDC, NIH, and EPA all disagree with me, and how dare I dispute experts! I also came under attack by two people who represented themselves as geologists. (One of them linked back to a real estate firm, but claims that is of no matter, she’s a geologist dammit!) They both made it clear that radon is a carcinogen. I made it clear that no study anywhere anytime has ever linked radon in our homes to illness of any kind. I offered up the following advice:

“… again and again above people have told me that I must discard my own native intelligence and instead rely on CDC and NIH. I trust my own instincts. I often surmise that I am unique in this regard. … Then come the alleged geologists who presuppose that if the existence of something in large quantities is harmful, it must also be must be so in small quantities as well. They would not make these statements unless they also made sure they were speaking as authority figures, geologists. Ergo I naturally suspect that since they are putting out false information, that either geologists are ignorant of the true nature of radon, or that they are not geologists.” 

That did not win me friends. The two insisted that radon is dangerous, offered no evidence other than vague generalities, and essentially slammed the door in my face with their supposed credentials. I piss in their general direction.

That is why Edward Bernays came to mind this morning.


PS: I should add that those who have indeed suffered from radon appear limited to underground miners who endure heavy doses and who smoke.

21 thoughts on “The radon game

    1. In the link below, which leads to a very long piece by an industry hygienist, you will find that he disputes this and any and all studies that label radon carcinogen.
      http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html#Radon%20And%20Risk

      Although political organizations (such as the US EPA) publish a variety of statements of elevated risk, to date there are no scientific studies that have ever actually shown that radon gas, as typically seen in houses, increases the risk of cancer. To be clear: There are NO valid studies that have conclusively demonstrated that typical residential exposures to radon increase the risk of cancer at all. In fact, all of the valid studies performed thus far show one of two things: 1) No risk and/or 2) a decreasing risk of cancer. This view is reflected in a position statement issued by the Health Physics Society, the premier Health Physics organization in the US. According to the position statement issued by the Health Physics Society1a, for doses below 100 mSv (10 rem)

      …risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are non-existent.”

      In a May, 2016 revision 1b the HPS reiterates that

      “Substantial and convincing scientific data show evidence of health effects following high-dose exposures (many multiples of natural background). However, below levels of about 100 mSv above background from all sources combined, the observed radiation effects in people are not statistically different from zero.

      The assumption in the study you cite is that ANY attachment to cell wall is dangerous, whereas Connell, in the study I cite, says that lower levels found in homes are not at all dangerous.

      B Muller says below that in Europe they do not even test for radon, and that some even argue it is beneficial. There, as here, science follows money, and EPA follows corporations, so this issue will take its place alongside AIDS, ZIKA, West Nile, JonBenet Ramsey, as just one more public hoax.

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  1. hmm..interesting. Radon is not known in Europe as a cause of any problems. It is even being told to be useful in improving the immune system but this is also told to be unproven. No need to mitigate radon if you sell an estate of course, well not yet. They may copy the idea here in Europe too. In Germany if you sell a house you need a thermal certificate which documents how much energy the estate consummates per year. There also are regulations forcing new buyers to renew the heating and to improve the thermal isolation of the house but I haven’t made such experiences yet. Our current house is 12 years old and up to date. This thermal certificates are useless of course and only cost money. We also have this Diesel scandal now, which scares Diesel-car owners to buy new cars. It was previously said, that Diesel cars emanate micro dust, now it is the nitrates, which has to be abandoned. Some cities have supposedly forbidden some Diesel cars (there are class 1-6 Diesel cars) but not all and not on all streets. We don’t drive any Diesels, so I can’t tell from my own experience and friends who do get angry and still don’t know what to do. It’s confusing. This ideas be it radon or diesel have one thing in common: they are based on measurements which require very special equipment and has to be done by specialists. You cannot objectively prove if there really is radon in your house, or if your car emanates to much nitrates. The specialists operate a device and as long as they stick to the protocol they believe to measure everything right. So in the end we all have to trust blindly the device maker and nobody can prove him wrong because this measurements cannot be made with other devices and or otherwise.

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  2. Interesting topic. They speak of geologists, but we are in no position to define health risks, that should be the expertise of a medically trained expert, not a geologist. What is possible is mapping the bedrock and soils in the subsurface to help predicting areas of higher risk of radon production.

    What B Müller claims is -again- false. “In Europe this is not an issue”. Back in Holland I heard about these radon scares much like what Mark explains; with the sales of houses and the need for “decontamination equipment”. And the town of Bad Kreuznach, not far from Müller’s ‘own’ Frankfurt appears to be a source of natural radon.

    Looking at the map presented to us for the US at Wikipedia:

    There are some strange things happening here.

    • the text says Rn is mostly related to U and Th (Uranium and Thorium)-bearing rocks in the subsurface, those sources are needed because no isotope of Rn is stable and all have very short half lives, so they decay very rapidly. To create a source of radon, one needs a mother element (U & Th mostly) producing rock type close by.
    • those are commonly granites (I see no problem there; U and Th bearing minerals are more common in granites and similar plutonic rocks)
    • but then looking at the map… The Appalachians make sense, but the Rockies and California (as a very low radon environment) do not; there are plutons of granite in those areas
    • as doesn’t the mostly sedimentary rock covered mid-west, which is showing up very high in radon
    • The abrupt changes between counties and states is strange and suspicious. This is best visible with Arizona. True, the counties are large in size in northern Arizona (creating a lower average value), but still then the transition from Utah in the north wouldn’t be so abrupt as wouldn’t happen with New Mexico in the east.
    • Another dramatic example of that is the border between Iowa and Missouri, where red changes to blue, in this case for small counties, so the above “excuse” doesn’t apply

    Such changes are not the result of nature, but have to do with state regulations (certain states having different measurements and thresholds to define risk), which renders the whole system useless for comparison.

    The same page also lists an interesting point:

    The fact that radon is present in indoor air has been known at least since 1950s and research on its effects on human health started on early 1970s. The danger of radon exposure in dwellings received more widespread public awareness after 1984, as a result of a case of Stanley Watras, an employee at the Limerick nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Mr. Watras set off the radiation alarms (see Geiger counter) on his way into work for two weeks straight while authorities searched for the source of the contamination. They were shocked to find that the source was astonishingly high levels of radon in his basement and it was not related to the nuclear plant. The risks associated with living in his house were estimated to be equivalent to smoking 135 packs of cigarettes every day.

    Hmm, so the source of this scare comes from a “nuclear” power plant employee? First problem is that a nuclear (or unclear) power plant is a probable hoax in itself; not only nukes are faked, but also nuclear power (instead those “plants” are regarded as excess dump sites for energy).

    Searching on this curious “Stanley Watras” (?) I found this interesting site, stating:

    I have done extensive research regarding radon gas and it’s effects on the human body. There is absolutely no medical or scientific evidence that radon gas has ever given anyone cancer. In fact, all of the research available suggests just the opposite.

    “The EPA ignores as well the work of University of Pittsburgh professor Bernard Cohen, whose research has documented the inverse relationship between radon and rates of lung cancer, in 1600 counties, containing 90% of the American population. A model of clarity and rigor, he has grouped and calculated the data in more than 100 ways, adjusting for every conceivable variable. Still the results hold: As, as the radon level in the home increases, the incidence of lung cancer falls!” Dr. Moore, Cato Institute

    With lots of links for those interested in knowing more about this plot.

    An answer a “Bernays-induced believer of anything ‘expert'” might hold against this site that “it is a site of a constructing company, so has a motive to lie/distort”. That conflict of interest (COI) indeed may be the case. But at the same time such a “””normie”””, drilled by the Indoctrination System (other people call them schools) shoots himself in the foot; because the same COI argument applies to all those leeches who jumped on the radon scare train to scrape off some bucks of the lucrative housing market, which obviously have multiplied in volume since 1984…

    Busted by the boomerang.

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      1. The link is to a 6,700 word article – I have printed it to read tomorrow.

        We can always count on our readers to fill the missing links. This article is about radon therapy for, among others, arthritis sufferers.

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    1. Gaia, I didn’t claim there is no radon in Europe, did I? I only wrote, it is of no importance in the real estate business (yet) and there is definitely no scientific proof , that it is harmful in the natural amount. But my main claim is, those things, be it radon or micro dust or micro plastic, or whatever, cannot be objectively measured or even observed. You can believe it exists but you’ll never see it. Not even indirectly through its influence on our life because there is none. Don’t get me wrong here. You can measure the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere for instance using chemical processes or infrared devices, which are well described and easy to understand. I worked with IR sensors myself in my chemistry course more than 30 years ago. And again, there are much simpler alternatives. Also you observe the influence of CO2 in the growth of plants. To measure radon you put a device in your house which supposedly collects information, then you have to send it to a laboratory, where they do lots of magic to it and then claim they have measured radon in your house. It’s a hoax. Real measurement of radioactive materials is very complicated and cannot be made this way. The same applies for all those “micro” things.

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  3. Thanks for bringing up the title insurance scam. I still get that cross eyed stare when I ask people why they think a bank would loan you money if there was any question on the details of the title accuracy. There are never any answers just that sound of crossed wires and a circuit burning out…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know they are not really loaning you money, to address the previous comment, but we have to unpack the crazy one step at a time. 😉

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  5. I worked briefly in the Radon biz in the early 90s. At the time we believed the hype. I can confirm that the charcoal testing canisters placed in the basement always tested higher than those placed on the upper floors. So it was at least consistent.

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    1. At the Nextdoor ap, my argument has been twisted to be that radon is not harmful, when I’ve specifically said that it is only harmful in large dosages, far beyond what would be found in a basement. The latest guy is threatening to sue me, as he I think is in the business. I have called it a “scam”, and I think it is a fair characterization, but also not unlike a racket wherein a problem is created to be “solved.”

      Two things are at work here: 1) People are scared shitless of cancer, and 2) people do not comprehend dosage, thinking at if something is a carcinogen in very large doses, it is in minute doses as well. There are indeed a few substances that are harmful no matter how much or how little, though none come readily to mind.

      For the most part, the human body is an amazing machine that takes on all comers. If DNA is damaged by a light dose of radon, the body repairs it. That is why the Health Physics Society, mentioned in my comment above, stated that “[at very low doses as found in homes] observed radiation effects in people are not statistically different from zero.”

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      1. As a caveat, I haven’t researched or thought much about the subject since that time period, but I can’t say that I disagree with anything that you have presented here.

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      2. it is a scam Mark. Those devices don’t show you anything so you could make a counter measurement somewhere else or reproduce the previous measurement. They had to be send to a laboratory, where they do some magic and then claim they have measured something. Real measurement of radioactive substances requires complicated indirect processes made in an isolated environment to exclude any foreign influence. And it is always reproducible and they always make counter measurements using neutral materials. People just don’t know how it really works and cannot judge if it is real or not. They do it in churches the same way. You have to believe it without seeing it.

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  6. As Jean Shepherd would say: Speaking of scams, my old man fell hard for the prostate cancer scam, getting his plug pulled at age 74. Later, during a routine checkup with a different doctor, he was informed that if he lived into his mid-90’s, there might be some monitoring of the situation required, but getting his prostate gland removed was completely unnecessary. (He passed a few years ago at 85) It affected him in any number of ways, not to mention the loss of certain functions, thus rendering a profound blow to his morale.
    My sense these days is that this scam has receded from the news cycles a bit. Same with women and the osteoporosis scare. I’ve been remote from the mainstream, lately, but are there any new medical “crises” anyone here is aware of that is being pushed hard by the dead souls at the top?

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    1. Not sure of new diseases. Most of what I see is in response to an available pill to treat it, IBS and a pill that increases urinary flow. But those are just PhRMA hoaxes looking for long term customers. Young girls are still being scammed with HPV.

      My brother at age 64 or 65 was told his PSA was elevated, and so he opted for surgery thinking the very smart doctor was saving his life. He died at 67, cancer throughout his intestines. I asked him if he thought there was any connection between the prostate surgery and the metastisis of the cancer, and he angrily replied NO! Totally unlike him, a very mild mannered man, making me think he was suspicious the answer was yes.

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  7. metastasis of cancer is a hoax too. You’ll always have one cancer at a time. Not everything what today is called cancer is real cancer. German scientist Otto Warburg got two Nobel prices, the first one 1931 for showing that cells under reduced oxygen conditions will only ferment and produce not enough energy to diversify and the second one 1941, which he could not receive, because Hitler forbade him, for demonstrating that cancer cells can only ferment. Since then we know quite good, what cancer is, what causes cancer and what to do to avoid cancer and we do nothing of it. Also surgery not always does what it pretends. Sometimes they really amputate something but usually they just give you a scar. They will never admit it but I talked to an anesthesiologist who is a friend of us a few times and involved him in contradictions. He started to lying proving my theory true. There is no such thing as organ transplants by the way. Just try to hold a couple of ice cubes in your hand for a minute. That will hurt. If you do it for longer, you’ll get frostbites. Yes, from simple ice cubes. But they tell you, they can cut of a lung or a heart or whatever from a dead body, put it on ice for a couple of hours and then sew it into another body and it will work again. If a part of your body gets cut of, the cells won’t get any oxygen anymore and die. Within minutes. Cold simply prevents the meat from getting smelly but it it does not prevent it from dying.

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    1. They don’t wait until you are dead to harvest organs. Brain dead, or legally dead, but not actually dead with no blood flow to the organs. Organ transplantation is incredibly expensive especially in the years following the surgery. It costs millions of dollars to keep these patients alive. But big medicine does it because they can.
      If you elect to be an organ donor, I suggest you look into tissue harvesting and see if that’s how you want your body to be treated after the organs are harvested.

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      1. dear ACurefortheCommon, what for should they harvest organs? It’s dead meat. Also if you’re brain dead, you are dead because you won’t recover anyway. Organ transplantation is sold to us as very expensive, but why should it be the case? The surgeon must be an experienced one of course which IMO only means one which is allowed to fake the surgery. Otherwise anyone could do it and the fake would become obvious. It’s like a license to perform a certain magic trick publicly. But other than that, they use the same “expensive” and completely useless machines they once had to buy (think of monty python’s the machine that goes beep), the organs had to be for free and cannot be bought on the market. And the patients with the need for a new organ had to be really sick anyway. That’s why they can make it expensive to keep them alive. Nobody will complain even if the treated person dies sooner than without any treatment. And by the way, why is it not allowed to sell and buy organs? The surgeons are allowed to take lots of money for their special skills. They or not forced to do it for free, no? But the organs had to be for free, right? It is because otherwise lots of people would like to make some money selling the organs that are told to be redundant. People sell readily their blood for some money, of course believing to do a good deed too. But without money involved, who would ever walk to a donor station? People also readily swallow new medicine on medical studies even knowing that can (and will) heavily harm them. You may not know that but on this studies they never use placebo. They use another medication just not to waste the opportunity. And this studies never test if the medication actually works, they only test if the side effects classify for lawsuits. They pay significant money for a week or two of feeling sick.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought that Ray Dawn was a daughter particle of Tommy Chong?

    I’ll See your basement air scam and Raise you the water in Israel conundrum.

    citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.630.3027&rep=rep1&type=pdf
    “The Jordan-Dead Sea Rift Valley is the structural and topographic manifestation of the Dead Sea Transform boundary
    between the Arabian and the Sinai plates. Early research on
    radioactivity in ground water of Israel has shown that water
    sources along the Dead Sea Rift Valley are marked by high
    activities of both radon and radium and by high Rn/Ra ratios
    (Mazor, 1962). The highest activities were found in sources
    located along the Dead Sea and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
    shores, and to a lesser extent in the Hula Valley, Jordan Valley,
    and the Arava (Fig. 1).
    Radium and radon are products within the uranium and
    thorium decay series, yet enrichment in water sources is most
    often not associated with anomalously high uranium or thorium
    content in surrounding rocks (Dickson, 1990). High radium
    activity is mostly dictated by its mobility and retardation factors,
    following its transfer into the ground water. Mobility of
    radium is greatest in oxidizing waters of high ionic strength.”

    But the New Jerusalem of America is not to be left out of the picture:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0016703782900035

    I’m looking at the map that Gaissphere provided but can’t make sense of it. I love the explanation that the amounts are like political re-districting. The Great Rift Valley in Africa is a God Rock (meteorite) impact zone with lots of volcano pimples, but the cluster in the USA doesn’t fit the hop, skip and jump that the source of the Chixalub crater carved out on its way from the Hudson to the Great Lakes down to Birmingham and the beloved Gulf. In fact they DILUTE water in Texas to keep the uranium counts low. I would have expected radon off the charts in Nevada, home of the fake nukes.

    We were propagandized in the 1970s that the only problem with radon was if you had cracks in your basement. Frankly, I think basements are the single cause of ill-health in america regardless if they are harboring crack. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Until this article, I had completely forgotten the “radon scare” that was in the news a lot a few years (decades) ago….more fear porn and another way to scam people out of their hard earned money.

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