...A half-dozen defunct gold and uranium mines south of Helena, Montana, attract ailing tourists, who bask in radioactive radon gas and drink radioactive water to improve their health. Each summer, hundreds of people, many of them Amish and Mennonites, come to the radon health mines to relax and treat arthritis, lupus, asthma and other chronic cripplers.
With colorful names like the Sunshine Health Mine, Free Enterprise, Earth Angel, Radon Tunnel, and the Merry Widow, the mine shafts tout radon levels as much as 175 times the federal safety standard for houses. Yet, visitors claim miraculous recoveries and disease remissions in the damp, cool passages. Some have arrived in wheelchairs, then walked out on their own.
The health mines opened in the early 1950's when little was understood about the health and hazard aspects of atomic radiation. One claim is that the gas stimulates the nerves and helps the human body heal itself.
The typical vacation at a radon health mine lasts a week or two. Visitors are recommended to sit in the mine two or three times a day, until they hit the maximum annual exposure level designated by the state. The permitted total visit is determined by the radiation level of the particular mine. The average visitor is 72 years old. The mines appeal to "plain people," such as the Amish or the Mennonites, because of the "natural" healing aspects, the lack of commercialization, and the relatively low cost-per-hour for treatment sessions...I think I've exposed myself to sufficient levels of ionizing radiation for one lifetime by being a reasonably frequent air traveler and a summer or two working with radioactive phosphorus. I don't think I'll be heading into the radon mines for this...