Radon is a radioactive gas found through much of the United States, but some of the highest levels in the nation are found in the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Most people are terrified of it since the EPA lists radon exposure, along with smoking, as one of the leading causes of lung cancer. Strangely enough, there was a time when alternative health practitioners urged patients to visit radon-steeped health spas. Some of the most famous of these spas were located in old gold and uranium mines that had been refurbished as health retreat centers.
During the height of their popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, radioactive spas were viewed as potentially helpful. Some spas even bottled their radioactive water and sold it all over the country. In addition to breathing rooms (chambers where patients spent hours absorbing and breathing radon gas), the Curie Springs Spa, once located near Boulder, Colorado went even further. It recommend visitors “drink the cool, effervescent and agreeable water, and hear the released energy vibrations of health in energy waves.” The owner, a man named Al Freel, called these radioactive waters plasmatron and said they were full of "glowing light flashes of electrically charged particles." The Colorado Geological Survey agreed, finding that the springs had the highest radioactivity of any mineral waters in the state.
The Curie Springs Spa no longer exists, but believe it or not, other radioactive spas have continued to keep their doors open, despite the EPA’s dire predictions about radon. Between Boulder, and Basin, Montana, for example, there are hundreds of defunct gold and uranium mines that emit intense levels of radon. One of them, The Merry Widow Mine is now the Merry Widow Health Mine, with some of the inner chambers boasting 175 times the level of recommended radon levels. On its website the Merry Widow claims it “has been helping people get relief from such diverse ailments as arthritis, sinusitis, migraine, eczema, asthma, hay fever, psoriasis, allergies, diabetes, and other health problems. The list is growing constantly as mine visitors tell us of other ailments for which they have experienced relief.”
According to RoadsideAmerica.com the average age of most radon health spa visitors is 72 and a typical visit lasts a week or two. Length of time allowed in the mine shafts is determined by the radiation level at that time (levels are constantly monitored). Pregnant women and children are not allowed access. Mine shafts and caverns are usually outfitted with niches or chairs for patients to relax in, along with board games and books for entertainment.
While most people would never dream of exposing themselves to radiation on purpose, some of these health spas have withstood at least a century’s test of time. With testimonials from many happy patients, this shows that one person’s EPA poison is another person’s delightful day spa experience.