Cigarettes contain radioactivity

Cigarettes contain radioactivity

Cigarettes contain measurable amounts of radioactivity in the form of polonium-210 and lead -210. A researcher working with US Department of Agriculture discovered  that the radioactivity came from phosphatic fertilizers which contained  uranium and its decay product radium-226. Radium decays into a series of daughter products including  polonium-210 and lead 210 which get airborne. Sticky hair-like structures  on both sides of tobacco leaves collect these from the atmosphere. Tobacco  roots also collect radioactivity from  soil.

In 1976, scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre showed that  that the polonium -210 levels in Indian tobacco are 19 to 15 times lower than those in US Tobacco. Actually it is a small matter, as, cigarette smoke contains over 3000 chemicals other than polonium-210 and many of these are cancer -inducing.

Sir Richard Doll eminent  British epidemiologist at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Studies Unit at Oxford declared thus:   “It now seems that about half of all cigarettes smokers will eventually  be killed of their habit”.

Researchers have  estimated that a person smoking 1 ½ packs of cigarettes daily receives a dose to certain regions of the lung equal  to 300 x-ray films of the chest per year. In 1990, the US Surgeon General declared on US national television that radioactivity in cigarettes accounts for at least 90 percent of all smoking related cancers.

More details in:

http://www.hindu.com/seta/2003/06/05/stories/2003060500020200.htm

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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