Tag Archives | Polonium

Who Killed Litvinenko? Perhaps Not Russia After All

AlexanderLitvinenkoHospital.jpg

Doubts are being cast on whether or not it was really the Russian government that infamously poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. From Newsweek:

It has taken more than eight years. But finally, at 10am on Tuesday 27 January, the doors to court 73 at London’s Royal Courts of Justice will swing open; the barristers, solicitors, reporters, and a host of other interested parties will troop in, and judge Sir Robert Owen will declare the start of a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko, a fugitive from Russia and newly-minted British citizen, who died in a London hospital on 23 November 2006.

At the centre of proceedings will be Marina Litvinenko, Alexander’s wife for 12 years and a figure of preternatural calm and dignity amid all the hurly-burly and frustration of the near-decade since his death. In large measure, that these hearings are being held at all, and that they have been designated a ‘public inquiry’ rather than an inquest, represents a personal victory for Litvinenko, reflecting her dogged determination to find out how and why her husband died.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Cigarettes Contain Radioactive Polonium

This is an article from 2006 that I found while trying to research the actual ingredients in cigarettes. Robert N. Proctor writes in the New York Times: Nuclear Pack
When the former KGB agent Alexander V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry. The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. Exactly how it gets into tobacco is not entirely understood, but uranium “daughter products” naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium. High-phosphate fertilizers may worsen the problem, since uranium tends to associate with phosphates. In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers. How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)
Continue Reading