Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not so bad in Bad Gastein

I am in Bad Gastein for my mother's birthday. It is not the best place for a vacation if you can not ski. The town is slowly turning into a ghost-town. The center, or as our concierge put it not-much-of-a-center, includes a handful of kitsch-shops and some restaurants, non of which open before after-ski. These isolated shops are surrounded by old hotels, most empty and poorly kept. Supposedly it is too expensive to renovate them, and probably equally important, it makes no difference because everyone who come here now come here to ski. On the other hand, when the rest of the family is up on the slopes, there is no one to disturb me when I blog work and the WiFi is free.

An interesting feature of Bad Gastein's are the thermal baths. High-radon steam and water spas that are, supposedly, good for you. The steam in the thermal caves in Bad Gastein clocks in at around 100 000 Bq/m3, or about 1000 times more than the suggested intervention-level for living-areas, and about the same as in the uranium-mines where radon was originally shown to cause lung-cancer. But, as the proponents of this radiation therapy are wont to say, there is no scientific data that shows that short-time or low-dose radon exposure actually is harmful. And, since it is a traditional remedy there surely must be some advantageous effect simply because it is traditional and people have been doing it for hundreds of years. There is indeed some data indicating that repair enzymes are induced by low-level radiation, and, on the epidemiological scale, higher background radiation does not correlate that well with cancer incidence. Being a liberal type, I think that those who want to bathe in radon-vapour should be allowed. If nothing else, it should speed natural selection on its way.

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