Monday, March 28, 2011
Another reason to stop smoking...
When Did Governments (and tobacco companies) Know About Polonium 210 and How Long Have They Known?
By Tom Dennen
Customers at a restaurant and a hotel visited by the poisoned ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko will be tested for the radioactive substance that killed him, Polonium 210, said British health chiefs on Friday.
Polonium 210 is found in trace amounts in cigarette smoke and is the major reason it causes cancer.
Polonium 210 is the only component of cigarette smoke that has produced cancers by itself in laboratory animals by inhalation - tumors appear at a level FIVE TIMES LOWER than the dose to a heavy smoker.
SCIENTISTS KNEW BY 1980
Lung cancer rates among American men kept climbing from a rarity in 1930 (4/100,000 per year) to the No. 1 cancer killer in 1980 (72/100,000) in spite of an almost 20 percent reduction in smoking through anti-smoking information campaigns. But during the same period, the level of polonium 210 in American tobacco had tripled. This coincided with the increase in the use of phosphate fertilizers by tobacco growers - calcium phosphate ore accumulates uranium and slowly releases radon gas.
(From Lenntech Water treatment & air purification Holding B.V. Rotterdamseweg 402 M):
As radon decays, its electrically charged daughter products (including Polonium 210) attach themselves to dust particles, which adhere to the sticky hairs on the underside of tobacco leaves. This leaves a deposit of radioactive polonium and lead on the leaves. Then, the intense localized heat in the burning tip of a cigarette volatilizes the radioactive metals. While cigarette filters can trap chemical carcinogens, they are ineffective against radioactive vapors.
The lungs of a chronic smoker end up with a radioactive lining in a concentration much higher than from residential radon.
These particles, including Polonium 210, emit radiation.
Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day imparts a radiation dose by Polonium 210-emitted alpha particles of about 1,300 millirem per year. For comparison, the annual radiation dose to the average American from inhaled radon is 200 mrem.
In addition, polonium 210 is soluble and is circulated through the body to every tissue and cell in levels much higher than from residential radon. The proof is that it can be found in the blood and urine of smokers. The circulating polonium 210 causes genetic damage and early death from diseases reminiscent of early radiological pioneers: liver and bladder cancer, stomach ulcer, leukemia, cirrhosis of the liver and cardiovascular diseases.
Former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stated that radioactivity, rather than tar, accounts for at least 90% of all smoking-related lung cancers. The American Center for Disease Control concluded: "Americans are exposed to far more radiation from tobacco smoke than from any other source."
Cigarette smoking accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths.
Only poor diet rivals tobacco smoke as a cause of cancer in the U.S., causing a comparable number of fatalities each year. However, the National Cancer Institute, with an annual budget of $500 million, has no active funding for research of radiation from smoking or residential radon as a cause of lung cancer, presumably to protect the public from undue fears of radiation from smoking tobacco.
Meanwhile, the British Health Protection Agency last week called for people who had been to the Itsu sushi restaurant or Millennium Hotel in central London on November 1 to come forward.
Its appeal came as the Conservatives indicated that they would ask the Government to make a Commons statement over the affair.
The HPA is taking "extremely seriously" concerns that other people may have been contaminated by the Polonium 210 that led to the death of Alexander Litvinenko in hospital although it made clear the risk was low.
Doctors discovered that he had somehow ingested a large dose of the radioactive substance and samples of it were later found in the hotel and restaurant.
Mr. Litvinenko, a former colonel in the Russian security services, visited both places on November 1, the day he was taken ill.
A vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin, Mr. Litvinenko, 43, claimed in a statement made public after his death that the Russian president had had him poisoned.
Scotland Yard's counter terrorism unit is investigating but has not described it as murder. Foreign Office officials have passed on a request via the Russian Ambassador, Yuri Fedotov, asking authorities in Moscow to make available any information that might assist police with their enquiries.
A post-mortem examination of Mr. Litvinenko's body has been delayed while a risk assessment is carried out to see if it is safe to perform the procedure and what precautions may be necessary.
Polonium-210 is very dangerous to handle in even tiny amounts - milligram or microgram amounts - and special equipment and strict control is necessary.
Human damage arises from the complete absorption of the alpha particle energy Polonium 210 emits, which is captured by soft tissue.
Sources maintain that it is not only a very unusual method of assassination, but also that not even fiction writers have bothered with it as a difficult-to-detect murder weapon.