Can Radon Put You at Risk for Brain Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease?
In a study conducted at the University of North Dakota, researchers discovered that the concentrations of radioactive radon daughters in the brains of non-smoking persons with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease averaged about 10 times greater than in the brains of persons with no previous evidence of neurological disorders. Professor Glenn Lykken and Dr. Berislav Momcilovic assert their study demonstrates that indoor radon gas has the capacity to irreversibly infest the brain with the poisonous progeny of radioactive heavy metals.
Recently revised EPA risks assessments estimate 21,000 Americans die annually from radon induced lung cancer, 150% higher than their 1994 estimate. However, scientists are increasingly suspicious that radon may be linked to disease in other parts of the body as well.
When inhaled, radon gas accumulates in lipid tissue throughout the body with the highest concentration in the brain, bone marrow, and nervous system. Additionally, one-third of the inhaled radon decay products (radioactive particles produced when the gas decays) pass from the lungs into the blood stream indicating that the gas does not flow quickly in and out of the lungs, but lingers in the body.
Previous studies at UND determined that radon is rapidly absorbed into the body through the lungs, it accumulates in the cranium resulting in increased gamma ray emissions from bismuth-214 (one of the radioactive radon decay products) and altered EEG signals.
While radon is a lipid-soluble gas that can move freely in and out of the brain despite the blood-brain barrier, none of the transmuted heavy metal radon daughters are soluble in the lipids, meaning they remain trapped in the brain where they emit gamma radiation and alpha particles resulting in both radiation and chemical injury to the brain cells.
Of keen interest was the unexpected discovery that the radioactivity selectively accrues to the brain proteins in the Alzheimer’s victims and to the brain lipids in the Parkinson’s victims. This pathognomonic distribution was inferred to reflect the increase of local chlorine availability to which to which the radon daughters bound selectively.
Once present, the most likely candidate for radiation injury appears to be the highly radiosensitive astrocytes rather than the more radio-resistant neurons, which do not divide. Other studies have indicated the astrocytes may be involved in Alzheimer's disease and the amyloid deposits and neurofibrillatory tangling observed with Alzheimer's may well reflect the response to radiation injury of the astrocytes.
An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, the number having doubled in the last 25 years. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson's disease with 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
Interestingly enough, the geographic distribution of Parkinson’s disease mortality is considerably higher in states with a greater radon potential, according to research by D.J. Lansak of the University of Kentucky and published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences.
Radon is measured in picoCuries
A picoCurie is 0.000,000,000,001 (one-trillionth) of a Curie, an international measurement unit of radioactivity. One picoCurie per liter (pCi/L) means that in one liter of air there will be 2.2 radioactive disintegrations each minute. For example, at 4 pCi/L, EPA's 'Action Level', there are approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air, during a 24-hour period.
Research findings published in Archives of Neurology (Aug. 18, 2003) predict that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease will increase 70 percent by 2030 affecting more than 7.7 million people. This increase is the result of the rapid growth of the 85+ age group, the vast majority of who are women (63 percent).
Radon is a primary source of harmful radiation exposure for humans; it decays in a cascade of daughters (RAD) by releasing the cell damaging high energy alpha particles. The ubiquitous environmental RAD exposure, and high RAD accumulation in the sensitive brain structures may either induce or hasten or both the irreversible "shut down" process of the ailing human brain in AD.
Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease:
» Memory loss: dementia such as forgetting things more often and not remembering them later.
If you recognize any warning signs in yourself or a loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends consulting a physician. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step in getting appropriate treatment, care, and support services.