Polonium – 210 – The Smoking Gun

The deafening silence about Polonium-210 from organizations such as Cancer Research UK has prompted me to have another think about a Very Strange Thing that happened six months ago. More on that in a moment but first we need to take a look at the lucrative and ever expanding chemical fertilizer industry.

The rock mineral apatite, which US farmers are by law obliged to use in the form of phosphate fertilizer, contains radon. One of the resulting products of radon decay is polonium-210, a radioactive substance which ends up on the fine hairs of the tobacco plant and is subsequently inhaled by smokers. Not naturally occurring in tobacco, but it is a deliberately added by-product of the phosphate mining industry.

Any of the many substances found in cigarette smoke can be shown to cause poor health and lead to disease, but laboratory trials consistently and repeatedly demonstrate that the only component that causes lung cancer tumours is polonium-210. The tobacco industry has been fully aware since the 1960’s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium-210.

Prior to 1930 and the advent of chemical fertilizers lung cancer was virtually unknown whereas today the incidence is greater than that for heart disease. Between 1938 and 1960, the level of polonium-210 in US grown tobacco tripled as the use of chemical fertilizers increased. The US Surgeon General, C Everett Koop is on record in 1990 stating publicly that tobacco radiation is probably responsible for 90% of tobacco-related cancer.

An awkward discrepancy exists in explaining the increased lung cancer rate from 4 per 100,000 in 1930 to 72 per 100,000 today and rising, despite the 20 percent reduction in tobacco use.

There are four thousand or so substances variously found in different brands of cigarettes. Some of them are added and some occur as a result of burning but the general public is not allowed to know what is added to tobacco despite a 1984 law obliging cigarette manufacturers to release this information.

Health Authority departments may request a list of additives but are forbidden to show this to anyone else.

In December 2006 an anti-smoking campaign funded by the UK Department of Health and promoted by Cancer Research UK was to be shown as a series of advertisements on national television. Programmed to run concurrently with a targeted display of posters across the country and the distribution of beer mats in bar venues, it was suddenly and inexplicably curtailed. Someone made a decision to drop all mention of polonium-210 but to proceed with the remaining material. Why?

When questioned the Department of Health’s response was ‘It would be inappropriate’.

The remaining ads have hard-hitting messages about the dangers of cigarette smoke and the poisonous substances it contains

Department of Health spokeswoman

We are surely entitled to ask why the Department of Health, without a valid explanation would think it ‘inappropriate’ to share information about the single most deadly substance to be found in cigarette smoke.

Could it be that the hitherto rarely mentioned and largely unheard of, but highly radioactive polonium-210 had overnight become worldwide headline news? The graphic illustrations of a painfully slow death by polonium-210 poisoning of the unfortunate Mr Alexander Litvinenko in London was the number one news item in the UK for several days. Would the passive information fed television audience of millions be able to make the connection between the inexorable rise in lung cancer and the polonium-210 content in cigarettes?

Were the tobacco industry chiefs quaking in their boots? Maybe they were – but only for a moment or two. Because our compliant Department of Health obliged and in collaboration with Cancer Research UK deleted all mention of the offending word ‘polonium-210’ from their upcoming anti-smoking campaign.

You didn’t know this? Welcome to the real world of big business ethics.

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