Cuchet Cave and Radon Gas


There is a relatively recently discovered cave in France that has some astounding prehistoric paintings on its walls, most likely the oldest in the world. It also has, as most caves, a high concentration of the toxic Radon gas.

cuchet cave paintingThis amazing cave is probably the clearest proof in favor of the argument that an artist must be high in order to create. Recently discovered, the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave is believed to be perfectly preserved since the last human stepped inside some 27000-26000 years ago. The walls are filled with the artistic expressions of the hallucinations induced by CO2 and radon gas. The final room, 1312-feet underground is filled with monsters and is believed to be the last stage in what seems to be a ritualistic descent into madness. The paintings show incredible sophistication, some with even 3D details, suggesting that intoxication may indeed sharpen artistic skills.

Predatory animals cover the walls of the cave: lions, panthers, bears, owls, rhinos, hyenas and the legs & genitals of a woman.

Visiting the cave is dangerous, but the acclaimed purveyor of atavism, Werner Herzog has made a 3D documentary, which he released at TIFF ‘10 (intro, Q&A 1, 2, nyu, afi, ebert).

Romanian Post Cuchet CaveThe cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. Herzog received special permission from the French minister of culture to film inside the cave. Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had heavy restrictions while filming inside the cave. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes which have had no contact with the exterior. Because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours at a time.

Aren’t you glad he went there instead of you? HypnotizedCowboy In any event, Herzog used 3D only for this documentary and has no plans to ever use it again – he felt that only thus could he accurately portray the vision of the original artists.

Interestingly, those who seek toxic pleasures similar to this speleological adventure could find it in their own home (cbc-radon):

On July 21, 2009, a United Nations committee said radon gas in homes is directly linked to a small risk of lung cancer. Based on the report, the World Health Organization and other agencies are in the process of revising their recommendations on maximum radiation doses for homes and workplaces. According to an earlier report by a government committee that was set up to review Canada's radon guidelines, lung cancer caused by exposure to radon gas killed 1,589 Canadians in 2001. It accounted for more deaths that year than accidental poisonings, homicides and drownings — combined.

Apparently, the levels of exposure to radon in Canada were five times higher than in the rest of the world – similar to levels considered safe for uranium miners and were only recently revised down:

On June 8, 2007 — 15 months after the Federal-Provincial Territorial Radiation Protection Committee received a report recommending tightening the guidelines — the federal government announced a new standard of 200 Bq per cubic metre. That's a level considered safe by most industrialized countries, including Russia, the Czech Republic and China. The United States recommends a level of 150 Bq per cubic metre.

Here’s the situation in Canada:

Causes of Death in Canada - 1997 Lifetime risks to a smoker exposed to radon
All causes of death 215,669 Lung cancer risk for lifetime exposure to radon at 800 Bq per cubic metre 30%
Diseases of the circulatory system 79,457 Lung cancer risk for lifetime exposure to radon at 200 Bq per cubic metre 17%
All malignant neoplasms including lung 58,703 Lung cancer risk for no exposure to radon (i.e., at outdoor levels) 12%
All lung cancers 15,439 Lifetime risks to a non-smoker exposed to radon
Suicides 3,681 Lung cancer risk for lifetime exposure to radon at 800 Bq per cubic metre 5%
Motor vehicle accidents 3,026 Lung cancer risk for lifetime exposure to radon at 200 Bq per cubic metre 2%
Accidental falls 2,622 Lung cancer risk for no exposure to radon 1%
Infectious and parasitic diseases 2,482
Estimated lung cancers attributable to radon 1,589
Accidental poisonings 703
Homicides 440
Drownings 283
Fires 272
Air transport accidents 73
Adverse reactions to therapeutic drugs 64 << ^Source: Report of the Radon Working Group on a New Radon Guideline for Canada
Railway accidents 47
Electrocution 30
Lightning 6

You might wonder, how can you assess your home and are you affected?

EPA - radonThe Canadian report that recommended tighter guidelines noted that as people make their homes tighter and more energy efficient, they may also be inadvertently raising radon levels. The report suggested the government should explore a system of grants and subsidies to help homeowners with the costs of testing and cleaning up radon gas.

Steps you can take inside your home include:

  • Sealing all cracks and openings in the walls and floors of your basement as well as around drains and pipes.
  • If your basement floor has a sub-floor, make sure it is ventilated.
  • Replace an earth floor with a concrete floor.
  • Increase the ventilation in your basement or other enclosed space where radon may accumulate.
  • Paint basement floors and walls. Use a sealant on top of the paint and add polyethylene sheets to basement walls.

More videos: [euronews] [nyc] [brunell] [amateurs] [universal] [Rhone-Alps] [chauvet] [radon-usa] [ra-mitigation] [ra-epa] [ra-surgeon] [ra-inspection] [ra-vent] [healthcanada] [ra-doc] [ra-kills] [ra-proofing] [ra-test2] [ra-cancer]

Sources / More info: wiki-speleology, wiki-chauvet, wiki-cave, fr-chauvet, ns-age, herzog-cave, ny-1sti, imdb-cave, cbc-radon

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