Monday, November 27, 2006

Polonium Lights anyone ?

I have a rocking headache today. Maybe it is just an unseasonably mild November Monday in the office to blame. Our office heating feels more appropriate for Northern Finland at the moment.

Anyway my ability to write is suffering as a result.

Hence I will leave you with this thought. What is an accessible way to start poisoning someone with Polonium 210 ? Start giving them cigarettes...........................

As Jennifer Aniston loves to say, "here comes the science bit":

For over 40 years, researchers and tobacco corporations have known that cigarettes contain radionuclides.

The contamination is sourced in naturally occurring radioactive radon gas which is absorbed and trapped in apatite rock. Apatite, or phosphate rock, is mined for the purpose of formulating the phosphate portion of most chemical fertilizers. Polonium releases ionizing alpha radiation which is 20 times more harmful than either beta or gamma radiation when exposed to internal organs.

Lung cancer rates increased significantly during most of the 1900's. It's no coincidence that between 1938 and 1960, the level of polonium 210 in American tobacco tripled commensurate with the increased use of chemical fertilizers and Persistant Organic Pollutant (POP) accumulation. In 1982, tobacco researchers DiFranza and Winters concluded that smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes per day exposed a person to the same radiation as 300 chest x-rays per year. Due to improvements in X-ray technology and increasing levels of radionuclides in tobacco, the Institute of Medicine now estimates that a heavy smoker is exposed to the equivalent radiation as up to 2,000 chest X-rays every year.

The National Institutes of Health state that tobacco is by far the largest source of radiation for the American public. Polonium is also present in chewing tobacco, benignly referred to as smokeless tobacco, and may contribute to the development of oral cancers.

Recently released tobacco corporation internal memos and reports indicate that they were well aware of radiation contamination as early as 1964, and discussed methods to remove polonium from tobacco in 1975. In 1977, Phillip Morris confirmed that superphosphate fertilizer was a source of polonium.

Maybe Scotland Yard will start cordoning off newagents and tobacconists as other areas of London contaminated by Polonium 210.


Sean said...

As far as I can tell, Russians are all chain smokers anyway.

Probably not unconnected with the fact that their population is falling and the male life expecatacy is about 37 !

Luis said...

Thanks Sean.

A slight generalisation I fear :-)

Also I thought the Russian male life expectancy was around 58. Still nothing to shout about when the average Japanese can make it to over 80. Even us Brits are averaging late 70s now. That's an average though, not a guarantee !