Radioactive metal that killed Litvinenko
Saturday 25 November 2006
Polonium-210 is one of the many radioactive isotopes of polonium, an element that occurs naturally in very low concentrations in the Earth's crust. It emits high-energy alpha particles which can damage and destroy living cells once the substance is ingested. Outside the body it is not a significant health hazard and particles can be blocked by the outer surface of the skin.
The isotope emits so many alpha particles that a capsule containing just half a gram of it would reach a temperature of about 500C. Amounts no bigger than a pinch of salt would be enough to cause acute radiation poisoning if ingested.
It takes 138 days for polonium-210 to decay to half of its activity levels. Once in the body, however, the biological half-life of polonium-210 is about 50 days. This suggests that the body of Alexander Litvinenko should still contain some amounts of the element. However, the bulk of the dose will have been excreted. Once ingested, polonium-210 is widely distributed in the soft tissues of the body, including the bone marrow.
It is mainly used industrially to eliminate static electricity generated in manufacturing processes such as rolling paper. The normal method of making polonium-210 in sufficient quantities so as to be useful is to produce it artificially in a nuclear reactor.
Polonium was the first element discovered by Marie Curie in 1898 while searching for the cause of radioactivity of pitchblende ore, which contained uranium.
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Midfielder set to force through move to Louis van Gaal's Red Devils - reports
- 4 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of Orlando Bloom crying after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...