Known as the bathing resort of the Caspian and by far the most beautiful site of the whole coast, it is unique in terms of scenery including forest, forested hills, and proximity to the Caspian beach. Wooded hills roll down nearly to the beach itself while the powerful outlines of the Alborz mountains range from an impressive background. The last Shah built a palace (now apa/ace museum, or Muzeh kakh-e Shah) in the thickly wooded hill overlooking Ramsar, the setting of which is one of the most magnificent anywhere along the Caspian coast.
The thin coast strip is covered with rich vegetation including palm and orange trees among the flower beds. There isn’t much in the way of activities here, nor is there much of historical or architectural interest, but the breathtaking scenery is enough for most holiday makers. Since the mountain stops only a few hundred meters short of the coast in this point, the town is squeezed into little more than one main street, and the natural limits to its development have helped to make this the most attractive of the seaside resorts.
Ramsar’s two luxury hotels are constructed on two adjacent terraces looking out upon a restful landscape. The oldest hotel, today looking more like a museum than a hotel, has an old-fashioned charm as well: extra-ordinary cast-iron statues covered with aluminum paint produce a wildly rococo effect.
The new hotel designed as a modern accommodation equipped with all facilities for the tourists, forms a large white splash amidst the greenery. A long alley of palm- trees leads from both hotels to the beach. The hotels have six restaurants with qualified personnel capable of providing the tourists not only with all sorts of services but also excellent local and foreign dishes. Furthermore, other facilities such as the handicrafts shop, bookstore, prayers hall, volleyball ground, swimming pools (for both sexes), cinema, children’s play ground, a number of mineral water springs; post and telecommunications, and finally a convenient and spacious parking lot for those traveling by car, are provided for you. Towards Chalus, the forest sweeps down to the sea.
Large picnic sites have been organized under the oaks and elms. There are motels and places of entertainment along the coastal road. Towards Rasht and Bandar-e Anzali. the landscape widens up as one approaches the Sefid Rud river delta. Tea plantations and rice paddies occupy all the land.
The city of Ramsar Iran hosts some of the highest natural radiation levels on earth, and over 2000 people are exposed to radiation doses ranging from 1 to 26 rem per year. Curiously, inhabitants of this region seem to have no greater incidence of cancer than those in neighboring areas of normal background radiation levels, and preliminary studies suggest their blood cells experience fewer induced chromosomal abnormalities when exposed to 150 rem “challenge” doses of radiation than do the blood cells of their neighbors. This paper will briefly describe the unique geology that gives Ramsar its extraordinarily high background radiation levels. It will then summarize the studies performed to date and will conclude by suggesting ways to incorporate these findings (if they are borne out by further testing) into future radiation protection standards.
Life evolved in an environment with higher radiation levels than exist today, and background radiation levels today are lower than at any time in the history of life on Earth. Since life first evolved, background radiation levels have decreased by a factor of about 10, although there has been a negligible reduction since the evolution of humans (Karam and Leslie, 1999; Karam et al., 2001). At present, natural background radiation levels on Earth vary by at least two orders of magnitude today, so humans and other organisms are subject to a wide range of background radiation levels. The annual background doses in some areas of the world are given in Table I. These do not include contributions from radon progeny in the lungs, which are estimated to be even greater than the absorbed doses shown if the radiation weighting factor of alpha particles is taken into account. Areas with unusually high background (high background radiation areas, or HBRAs) are found in Yangjiang, China; Kerala, India; Guarapari, Brazil; and Ramsar, Iran. Some areas of Ramsar, a city in northern Iran, have among the highest known background radiation levels in the world. For the purposes of this paper, “dose” will be used to mean absorbed beta/gamma radiation dose because the contribution of alpha emitters is not considered.
The high background radiation in the “hot” areas of Ramsar is primarily due to the presence of very high amounts of 226Ra and its decay products, which were brought to the earth’s surface by hot springs. Groundwater is heated by subsurface geologic activity and passes through relatively young and uraniferous igneous rock. Radium is dissolved from the rocks by hot ground water. Uranium is not dissolved because the groundwater is anoxic and uranium is insoluble in anoxic waters (Grandstaff 1976). When the groundwater reaches the surface at hot spring locations, travertine, a calcium carbonate mineral, precipitates out of solution with dissolved radium substituting for calcium in the mineral. A secondary cause of high local radiation levels is travertine deposits with a high thorium concentration. (Sohrabi 1990). The radioactivity in local soils and the food grown in them is also high because soils are derived from the weathering of local bedrock. Table II details the range of radioactivity levels measured in some local rocks and soil samples.
dose limit for workers in Iran is 20 mSv yr-1, so some residents in the Ramsar area receive a much higher annual radiation exposure than is permitted for radiation workers. Figures 1 and 2 show the location of Ramsar and the highest background radiation areas with respect to populated areas. The people who live in high radiation areas of the world are of considerable interest because they and their ancestors have been exposed to abnormally high radiation levels over many generations. If an annual radiation exposure of a few hundred mSv is detrimental to health, causes genetic abnormalities or an increased risk of cancer, it should be evident in these people, given a large enough population to study.
Ramsar Preliminary Findings Preliminary studies (Ghiassi-nejad et al., 2002) show no significant differences between residents in high background radiation areas (HBRAs) compared to those in normal background radiation areas (NBRAs) in the areas of life span, cancer incidence, or background levels of chromosomal abnormalities. Further, when administered an in vitro challenge dose of 1.5 Gy of gamma rays, donor lymphocytes showed significantly reduced sensitivity to radiation as evidenced by their experiencing fewer induced chromosome aberrations among residents of HBRAs compared to those in NBRAs. Specifically, HBRA inhabitants had 44% fewer induced chromosomal abnormalities compared to lymphocytes of NBRA residents following this exposure.
Ramsar is the westernmost county and city in Mazandaran. It borders the Caspian Seato the north, Gilan province to the west, Qazvin Province to the south, and to the east.
Ramsar is a popular sea resort for Iranian tourists. The town also offers hot springs, the green forests of the AlborzMountains and the vacation palace of the last Shah, which is currently the Ramsar Hotel. Twenty-seven kilometres south of Ramsar and 2700 meters above sea leavel in the Alborz mountains is Javaherdeh village, which is an important tourist attraction in Ramsar county.
Some points in Ramsar have the highest concentrations of natural radioactivity of the world, due to the activity of hot springs. The peak dose of radiation received by a person living in Ramsar over one year is 260 mSv
The Convention on Wetlands