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Caving Illnesses

Speleofish

Active member
I think they're ubiquitous but they're more likely to be able to latch onto you if you're walking through tall vegetation rather than short grass - so there are many parts of the dales that are unfavourable to them. However, I'm based much further south so this is rather theoretical.
 

AR

Well-known member
Don’t underestimate Lyme. My mother probably had it about 30 years ago but thought she had a horse fly bite. It was only many years later I saw a photo of a Lyme rash and remembered the big red bullseye on her leg. She’s been totally banjaxed ever since because it wasn’t treated. Mainly chronic fatigue and weakness. Ticks are all over the Lake District including silverdale area and even Kendal. And rife all over Scotland. Not heard of any in the dales. Anyone know if they’re in the dales? We regularly find them on us after walking in the lakes and found ten in one check after a day out in Scotland. Take care out there.
Not 100% certain about the Dales but I'd guess it's likely, since they're definitely present on the North Yorkshire Moors. Anywhere where there's bracken and deer/sheep passing through, you should expect ticks.
 

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
I think they're ubiquitous but they're more likely to be able to latch onto you if you're walking through tall vegetation rather than short grass - so there are many parts of the dales that are unfavourable to them. However, I'm based much further south so this is rather theoretical.
As I recall, the original hot spot for Lyme's Disease was the New Forest. I gather these days one should expect it to be present any where across the whole of the UK. I recall a friend being tested for it as part of the investigation of what turned out to be arthritis.

It is also worth noting that one in three people do not develop the rash. So you could miss both the tick and the early impact.
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
Regarding Lyme Disease I saw one of the first cases to be reported in the UK. The serological test had only just been invented and the first samples went to Porton Down to a visiting researcher who scooted back to the US without reporting back. It was 18 months before we got the diagnostic process going again. It was the patient's and my curiousity about the origin of her facial palsy and the fact that a neighbour had had the same complaint. She suggested it could be ticks from rabbits the cat brought in and our local then excellent microbiologist did some research suggesting we test for Lyme Disease. Never seen anybody with after effects although I suppose we got quite good at spotting the early rash and treating it. Another disease (my father got this) you could pick up in areas with sheep is Q fever which, again, can be nasty if untreated. Bob's comments on radon are interesting in that some years ago I suggested it would be statistically difficult to demonstrate a link between caving and lung cancer as one would have to eliminate any cavers who had smoked and got lung cancer from the figures. Do you we know how many non smoking cavers have now developed lung cancer? There should be very few if any unless radon is having an effect.
 
Do you we know how many non smoking cavers have now developed lung cancer? There should be very few if any unless radon is having an effect.
while surely indeed most if not all cavers who died of lung cancer will have been smokers, that does not mean those figures aren't affected by radon- whether in or out of a cave, being a smoker massively increases the risk of developing lung cancer caused by radon exposure.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
I know of at least two people, who suffered fatal lung cancer but were not smokers, in the Peak District. But I'm not going to identify them on a public forum; it just doesn't seem right.
 

underground

Active member
Does anyone else have a mental image of a load of cavers, oversuits tucked into their wellies, lying on yoga mats in the dark, whilst someone creeps around bonging a gong..?
I’d forgotten my yoga mat…
299AD604-02FE-44EA-8371-43348139CDA6.jpeg
 

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
I had a list of 5 or 6 deceased persons, only one of whom was a smoker. I won't name any of them though I have lost the list so can't recall some of the names. We did speak to a statistician at the then National Radiological Protection Board (now the UKHSA Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards Directorate), hence my previous comment.
 

2xw

Active member
When it comes to lung cancers one in five have no relation to smoking so non smokers having it would not necessarily have any relation to radon - one in ten are related to air pollution.
I'm somewhat convinced that me using the Northern Line or living in a city gives a higher chance of dying from lung cancer than digging in the P swallets (although it won't help). This, and having lived in a house in the peaks, leads me to not bother thinking about radon at all. Cancer is a 1 in 3 chance anyways isn't it
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Radon is the 2nd greatest cause of lung cancer globally, after smoking. Dismissing Rn222 as an irrelevancy, within a caving context, would be unwise.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
I'm beginning to get the impression, though I need to read a lot more on this, that emplaced sediment may hold (and emit) a lot of radon, especially close to the shale boundary, as much as deep-seated gas rising up through fissures. Aren't there higher-than-usual levels of uranium within the Edale Shales? I seem to remember reading somewhere (probably TDF) that investigations were made around the Mam Tor/Odin fault area in the 1950s as to the viability of mining for it, but the generally unstable ground (or perhaps uneconomic levels, or both) made it impractical. Maybe I imagined all that, but it rings a bell.

Anyway, if prolonged digging in low-air sediment-filled tubes, which occupied a lot of diggers in the 1960s-90s, is a possible heightened risk, then it does add complexity (or extra time at least) for current digging, smoking or not. I was at the inner end of a very long passage such as this only today, digging out layered sediments with my hands, as there literally wasn't room to swing a micro-pick. My first visit for two years though, and it was amazing to see how far it had got since I was last there. The main diggers definitely aren't smokers.
 
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2xw

Active member
Radon is the 2nd greatest cause of lung cancer globally, after smoking. Dismissing Rn222 as an irrelevancy, within a caving context, would be unwise.
Where's this stat from? Cancer research UK seems to dismiss radon saying it causes a small amount of lung cancer in the UK, and saying greater risks come from air pollution (1 in 10 cancers) and exposure to diesel fumes.

The BCA stats seemed to indicate a standard trip in Giants had the same dose as about 3 days staying in my mum's house in the peaks, which is obviously bad (and worthy of monitoring by instructors) but I'm only going to give it the same amount of attention as I do to not drinking water in mines and checking for ticks.
 
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2xw

Active member
Sorry to double post - pwhole probably right given the academic stuff on Uranium in the peak (and it's water) wonder how it interacts with Weil's disease 🤔
 

mikem

Well-known member
Where's this stat from? Cancer research UK seems to dismiss radon saying it causes a small amount of lung cancer in the UK, and saying greater risks come from air pollution (1 in 10 cancers) and exposure to diesel fumes.
US national cancer institute:
World health organization:
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Aren't there higher-than-usual levels of uranium within the Edale Shales?

Correct. Furthermore the 1991 Middleton/Gunn et al report (published but strangely not widely circulated) unequivocally states that Giant's Hole is "the most radioactive cave in the world", probably due to the "uranium-rich basal Namurian shales which, in the Castleton district, lie in close proximity to the Carboniferous limestone. Sediments from such deposits could have easily been transported into the system".

The summer levels of Radon in Giant's are so high that "one hour would be sufficient to exceed the recommended maximum annual additional dose of radiation for a member of the public".

The 2019 BCA recommendation that recreational cavers should limit their annual exposure to an accumulated 1 miilion bequerels didn't seem to get widely publicised either.
 

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
I wondered how many lead miners got lung cancer? And I found this: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/644266/
Interesting speculation in that paper about building up protection. For what it is worth, I recall a comment about poor air quality in mines which might well do similar.

For those who like to read dense scientific papers, then try ICRP 137 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/ANIB_46_3-4 and its predecessors for the basis of the radiation dose from radon, including the impact on miners. Unfortunately ICRP 151 which I presume provides an update is still only available as a paid for download. Only a couple of years to wait before it becomes free.

Oh and thanks to a nameless person who provide me with an update so I am aware of 8 deaths amongst cavers, two of whom were smokers.
 

ChrisB

Active member
The 2019 BCA recommendation that recreational cavers should limit their annual exposure to an accumulated 1 miilion bequerels
I've just looked that up on the BCA website, as the Bq is a unit of radioactivity, not exposure. It's actually 1 million hBqm-³, meaning that the number of hours of exposure times the exposure in bequerels per cubic metre shouldn't exceed 1 million per year.

1 million hBqm-³ seems ambiguous to me, I think it should properly be 3600 million sBqm-³, as the SI time unit is the second, not the hour, and hBq means hecto-bequerel, that is 10Bq.

To be proper SI, is that 3.6 GsBqm-³?
 
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