People living in the town of Yangjiang, located in China’s southern Guangdong province, have traditionally built their homes from bricks made of sand and clay. Trouble is, the sand in the region has eroded from hills containing monazite and once incorporated in bricks and mortar, thorium in the monazite sand continues to decay into radioactive radium, radon and actinium. It’s estimated that residents in the most highly affected areas of Yangjiang live with annual NBR exposures three times the world’s average.
(images via: Yangjiang China)
A series of studies on people living in Yangjiang’s highest areas of natural background radiation dating back to 1970 indicated the mortality of residents from cancer was at or lower than that of residents in control groups living in areas with average exposure. Researchers believe that chronic exposure to higher than average radiation levels may have triggered an adaptive response mechanism that offers some protection from noted debilitating effects of radioactivity. The aforementioned info may or may not influence your decision to visit Yangjiang’s highly regarded hot springs resort.
Karunagappally, a municipality in the Kollam district of Kerala, southwestern India, has been occupied since ancient times and as of the year 2001 had a population of approximately 610,000. Though today the region’s minerals are being exploited by rare earth metal mining operations, some of those minerals (monazite to be exact) have been eroding into beach sand and alluvial deposits for millions of years.
(images via: Bharatkalyan97)
A 2009 study of background radiation and cancer incidence in Kerala conducted by the Regional Cancer Center in Trivandrum, Kerala, India concluded that “In site-specific analysis, no cancer site was significantly related to cumulative radiation dose. Leukemia was not significantly related to HBR, either.”
(image via: Desdemona Despair)
Are we right to panic over increases in radiation and radioactivity caused by nuclear accidents, wars, mining operations and more? Well, yes and no – though there’s no doubt that above “normal” levels of radioactivity can and do cause genetic damage and a wide range of cancers, it’s also safe to say that natural background radiation has been around since before the dawn of life on earth and, wonder of wonders, life goes on.