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.)
Tag Archives | Radiation
Via the Tehran Times:
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Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights will file a lawsuit against Britain and the U.S. over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq, an Iraqi minister says.
Iraq’s Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Mikhail Salim, told Assabah newspaper that the lawsuit will be launched based on reports from the Iraqi ministries of science and the environment.
According to the reports, during the first year of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, both countries had repeatedly used bombs containing depleted uranium.
According to Iraqi military experts, the U.S. and Britain bombed the country with nearly 2,000 tons of depleted uranium bombs during the early years of the Iraq war.
Atomic radiation has increased the number of babies born with defects in the southern provinces of Iraq.
Iraqi doctors say they’ have been struggling to cope with the rise in the number of cancer cases — especially in cities subjected to heavy U.S.
At Yahoo Tech:
The latest airport security trend is the backscatter x-ray machine, touted as a powerful way to virtually frisk a traveler for contraband without the embarassment of a strip search.
Though touted as completely safe because the level of radiation is so low, travelers have been nervous about the devices — and not just because it shows off a nice outline of their privates to the people manning the machines — but because they remain scared of the health problems they might propose.
Looks like a little healthy paranoia might have been a good thing. While the conventional wisdom has held that so-called “terahertz radiation,” upon which backscatter x-ray machines are based, is harmless because it doesn’t carry enough energy to do cellular or genetic damage, new research suggests that may be completely wrong.
Specifically, researchers have found that terahertz radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the force generated is small, the waves have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”
I’m not a doctor, but that just doesn’t sound good…
[continues at Yahoo Tech]
From the blog of Dr Magda Havas, PhD:
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December 2009. If you are a student who is sensitive to electromagnetic energy or who does not want to be unnecessarily exposed to microwave radiation then this is definitely one university you should consider attending.
Lakehead University has opted for a fibre-optic network rather than a wireless network to provide access to the internet for students attending the campus in both Thunder Bay and Orillia, Ontario, Canada.
This is the first university in North America that has opted for the precautionary principle and that places the health and safety of students and staff above the convenience of wireless technology. Despite this policy students have access to the world wide web and have adequate cell phone access as well. What they don’t have is unnecessary exposure to microwave radiation.
We look to universities to provide leadership in society and this is one university that does just that.
No, this is not one of those “20 years ago today” stories; it just happened here and now in 2009, as reported by ABC TV in Philadelphia:
MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – November 22, 2009 — A small amount of radiation has been detected in a reactor building at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania.
Exelon Nuclear spokeswoman Beth Archer says investigators are searching for the cause, but that the radiation was quickly contained.
Radiological surveys showed the contamination was confined to surfaces inside the containment building.