[ RadSafe ] FW: New CDC site on UK's Polonium-210

james.g.barnes at att.net james.g.barnes at att.net
Fri Dec 1 07:31:31 CST 2006

This was posted to the Occupational Medicine BB this morning.

James Barnes

-------------- Forwarded Message: -------------- 
From: "Gary Greenberg" <gngreenberg at gmail.com> 
To: Occ-Env-Med-L <james.g.barnes at att.net> 
Subject: [occ-env-med-l] New CDC site on UK's Polonium-210 
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 03:52:15 +0000 

Information Regarding Polonium-210 Involved in Recent Events in the 
United Kingdom 


Recent events in the United Kingdom have brought attention to the 
radioactive material Polonium-210 (Po-210) as a possible public health 
concern. The U.K. Health Protection Agency has information about 
Po-210 and this event on their Web site: 
(www.hpa.org.uk/polonium/default.htm). Additional information on this 
topic can be found on the U.K. National Health Service site 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the 
following basic questions and responses about this topic. 

What is Polonium 210? 
Po-210 is a radioactive material that occurs naturally at very low 
concentrations in the environment; although it can be produced in 
university or government nuclear reactors, it requires expertise to do 
so. The exposures to this radionuclide in London represent a very rare 
event. Po-210 emits alpha particles, which carry high amounts of 
energy that can damage or destroy genetic material in cells inside the 
body. Po-210 is a particularly energetic radionuclide, giving off 
5,000 times more alpha particles than does the same amount of radium. 
Po-210 is used in some industrial applications such as static 
eliminators, which are devices designed to eliminate static 
electricity in processes such as paper rolling, manufacturing sheet 
plastics, and spinning synthetic fibers. 

Is Po-210 harmful to humans? 
Po-210 is a radiation hazard only if it is taken into the body through 
breathing or eating or by entering a wound. This "internal 
contamination" can cause irradiation of internal organs, which can 
result in serious medical symptoms or death. Po-210 is not an external 
hazard to the body—neither polonium nor its radiation will penetrate 
intact skin or membranes. Most external traces of it can be removed 
through careful washing. For more information about contamination and 
irradiation (exposure), see CDC's fact sheet "Radiological 
Contamination and Radiation Exposure" 

Are other people at risk if they come into close contact with a 
contaminated person? 
People will not be exposed to radiation (irradiated) simply by being 
near a person who is internally contaminated with Po-210. Health care 
workers who are providing care for a contaminated patient will not be 
exposed to Po-210 unless they inhale or ingest contaminated bodily 
fluids. Normal hygiene practices in hospitals for microbial 
contamination will be sufficient to protect workers from radiological 
contamination. For more information on radiation protection for 
health care workers, see CDC's "Radiological Terrorism: Tool Kit for 
Emergency Services Clinicians" 

What should you do if you have concerns about possible exposure 
related to the London incident? 
If you were an overseas visitor during early November 2006 and think 
you might have had contact with persons or locations involved in the 
London incident see http://www.hpa.org.uk/. Send an e-mail requesting 
information to the U.K. Health Protection Agency at 
overseasadvice at hpa.org.uk. 

Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList 
Univ. N. Carolina School Public Health & Duke Univ. Med. Ctr. 
GNGreenberg at gmail.com http://occhealthnews.net 

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