[ RadSafe ] Re: Radioactive Poison Killed Ex-Spy

james.g.barnes at att.net james.g.barnes at att.net
Sun Nov 26 11:29:08 CST 2006

Following up on an earlier posting, my Rad Health Handbook lists Po-210 as being a daughter of Bi-210 "from natural sources."  Bi-210 is listed as having a half-life of approximately 5 days, and is a descendant of Ra-226 (after a number of relatively rapid transformations).

The earlier posting indicated that Bismuth is a very potent poison.

To speculate (rad chemists, help out here), could someone have purified Bi-210 from a Radium mixture, then administered it to the unfortunate victim as a chemical poison.  Then after the poisonous effects had occurred, the Bi-210 would eventually transmute to Po-210 before it could be readily detected.

Did anybody look for Bi-210?  Is it commonly listed on most gamma spec libraries?

Jim Barnes

-------------- Original message from "Jerry Cuttler" <jerrycuttler at rogers.com>: -------------- 

> Folks, 
> Does anyone have a good explanation of the mechanism whereby polonium-210 
> kills a person that ingests it? 
> Jerry 
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/24/AR2006112400410. 
> html?referrer=email 
> Radioactive Poison Killed Ex-Spy 
> British Say Case of Putin Critic Is Unprecedented 
> By Mary Jordan and Peter Finn 
> Washington Post Foreign Service 
> Saturday, November 25, 2006; A01 
> LONDON, Nov. 24 -- Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was fatally 
> poisoned by a radioactive substance, traces of which were found in his 
> urine, at his home and at a London restaurant and hotel he visited the day 
> he became ill, according to the British health department. It called the 
> case "unprecedented" in Britain. 
> Authorities closed the restaurant and sealed off part of the hotel Friday as 
> part of an emergency effort to trace the substance, polonium 210, and ensure 
> that it does not harm other people. Litvinenko would have eaten, inhaled or 
> received it through a wound, according to Pat Troop, chief executive of 
> Britain's Health Protection Agency. 
> Coming after the mysterious poisoning of another prominent opponent of the 
> Kremlin, Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko, the death provoked 
> accusations that Russia continues to use Cold War-style tactics to eliminate 
> critics abroad. London was the scene of the 1978 assassination of a 
> Bulgarian dissident who was killed by a jab from a umbrella tip bearing the 
> toxin ricin. 
> Litvinenko blamed the Kremlin shortly before he died, according to friends 
> and family members. "As I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of 
> wings of the angel of death," Litvinenko, 43, said in a dictated statement, 
> according to friend Alex Goldfarb, who met reporters while accompanied by 
> Litvinenko's tearful father. 
> "You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around 
> the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your 
> life," the statement said. "May God forgive you for what you have done, not 
> only to me but to beloved Russia and its people." 
> Kremlin and Russian security service officials have denied any involvement 
> in the poisoning of Litvinenko, who fled to Britain in 2000 after publicly 
> accusing the security service of involvement in the bombings of two 
> apartment buildings in Russia in 1999 in which 300 people died. Litvinenko 
> had been investigating the murder last month of Russian journalist Anna 
> Politkovskaya, another critic of the Putin government. 
> Litvinenko's death complicated a summit in Helsinki between Putin and 
> European Union leaders. Speaking there, the Russian president called 
> Litvinenko's death a tragedy, expressing his condolences and pledging his 
> country's cooperation in the investigation. 
> Addressing allegations that he had ordered the assassination to silence a 
> troublesome critic, Putin said, "I hope the British authorities won't fuel 
> groundless political scandals." He added, "It is a great pity that even such 
> tragic things as human death are used for political provocations." 
> Putin questioned why Litvinenko's deathbed note had not been made public 
> before he died. Putin also said there was no official finding that 
> Litvinenko had been murdered. "As I know, the medical certificate of British 
> doctors does not indicate that he died a violent death," Putin said. "It 
> does not say that. Hence there is no reason for such talk at all." 
> Troop, the British health chief, said no autopsy had been conducted. She did 
> not say why, but the BBC reported that "the delay is believed to be over 
> concerns about the health implications for those present at the 
> examination." 
> Roger Cox, another health agency official, told reporters that radiation 
> emitted by the polonium had been detected in Litvinenko's urine. 
> John Henry, a toxicologist who was asked by Litvinenko's family to look into 
> the case and who examined Litvinenko before his death, said the type of 
> polonium involved is "only found in government-controlled institutions." In 
> an interview, Henry called polonium 210 an "extraordinary poison" that is 
> lethal in doses so small, "you can lose it on the point of a pin." 
> Henry, who took part in the investigation of the 2004 poisoning of Ukraine's 
> Yushchenko, then opposition leader and now the president, said that polonium 
> 210 "kills cell by cell" and that once it is administered, there's 
> "absolutely nothing" that can be done to save the exposed person. 
> Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch, which is 
> leading the investigation, said police are studying closed-circuit 
> television surveillance footage of the places in central London that 
> Litvinenko visited Nov. 1, the day he became ill. 
> In Friday interviews with Russian news media, a Russian man who met with 
> Litvinenko that day said he had been questioned by British officials in 
> Moscow and denied involvement in the case. 
> Andrei Lugovoy, a former Russian security agent, said Litvinenko called him 
> and invited him to a meeting to discuss business contacts. He said that he 
> and two other men, including one named Dmitry Kovtun, met with Litvinenko at 
> the Millennium Hotel on Grosvenor Square near the U.S. Embassy. 
> He said Litvinenko did not eat or drink anything during their 20- to 
> 30-minute meeting. "I'm surprised by how hysterically some are trying to tie 
> me to this," Lugovoy said. 
> Police said Friday night that part of that hotel as well as the Itsu sushi 
> restaurant that Litvinenko visited had been closed while the investigation 
> continued. 
> From London to Moscow, people were trying to sort out who stood to benefit 
> from Litvinenko's death. 
> Litvinenko's supporters say Putin benefits by eliminating a fierce critic. 
> Kremlin defenders say it is not Putin, but rather the Russian leader's 
> enemies who gain. The fierce anti-Putin circle in London, including exiled 
> Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, has seized on the poisoning as a way to 
> smear Putin's reputation internationally, they said. 
> Nikolai Kovalyov, chairman of the veterans committee of the lower house of 
> the Russian parliament, told the Interfax news agency: "Doubtlessly, it did 
> not benefit Russia and its special services. . . . It is not in our 
> interests at all." 
> Kovalyov, who once headed the Federal Security Service, the domestic 
> successor to the KGB, added that other "defectors who did incomparably more 
> harm to Russia than Litvinenko continue to live in the West safe and sound." 
> Finn reported from Moscow. 
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: 
> To: "rad-sci-l at wpi.edu" 
> Cc: "Kaiser" 
> Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2006 11:56 AM 
> Subject: Not just a James Bond story 
> As I already pointed out in an aricle in "Strahlenschutzpraxis" a few years 
> ago, there have been various criminal uses of radioactive materials by 
> former East Bloc secret services before. 
> Regards. Klaus 
> >Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2006 16:29:33 +0000 
> >From: Brian Gornall 
> >Subject: [srp] HPA Press Statement on Alexander Litvinenko 
> >X-Originating-IP: 
> >........... 
> > 
> >HPA Press Statement 
> > 
> >24 November 2006 
> > 
> >Mr Alexander Litvinenko- Health Protection Agency Statement 
> > 
> >The Health Protection Agency can confirm that it is providing expert advice 
> >as part of the Metropolitan Police investigations into the death of 
> >Alexander Litvinenko. 
> > 
> >Tests have established that Mr Litvinenko had a significant quantity of the 
> >radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (Po-210) in his body. It is not yet clear 
> >how this entered his body. Police are investigating this. 
> > 
> >Po-210 occurs naturally and is present in the environment and in people at 
> >very low concentrations. As it emits alpha particles, Po-210 can represent 
> >a radiation hazard if it is taken into the body - by breathing it in, by 
> >eating it, or if it gets into a wound. It is not a radiological hazard as 
> >long as it remains outside the body. 
> > 
> >The Agency is providing radiological protection advice to staff at the two 
> >hospitals which treated Mr Litvinenko and specialist monitoring teams will 
> >also d etermine whether any radioactive polonium-210 contamination has 
> >spread in the hospital areas he was cared for. Other specialist monitoring 
> >teams will examine other locations, including Mr Litvinenko's home. 
> > 
> >Agency staff will be contacting heath care workers involved in the direct 
> >care of Mr Litvinenko, as well as those who may have had very close contact 
> >with him when he was ill - including his family. This will involve a simple 
> >questionnaire and the provision of a urine sample if appropriate. 
> > 
> >Professor Pat Troop , Chief Executive of the Health Protection Agency, 
> >said:"Normal hygiene and cleanliness practices in hospitals should have 
> >reduced the likelihood of any significant intake by NHS staff and others 
> >and therefore any radiation hazard. 
> > 
> >"Nevertheless it is prudent to monitor as a precaution those people who 
> >came into direct and close contact with Mr Litvinenko to ensure there has 
> >been no cross contamination - Agency staff are meeting with these people 
> >urgently. 
> > 
> >"Other people would not be exposed to radiation simply through being near 
> >to Mr Litvinenko. There would be a potential radiological hazard to people 
> >who could have ingested or breathed in the contaminated body fluids, but 
> >this hazard is likely to be restricted to those who have had very close 
> >contact with Mr Litvinenko." 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >Notes to Editors: 
> > 
> > 1. What is polonium 210? 
> > 
> > Polonium-210 (Po-210) is a radioactive material. It occurs naturally and 
> > is present in the environment and in people at very low concentrations. It 
> > can also be made by irradiation of other materials. Polonium-210 has a 
> > half-life of 138 days. It undergoes decay by emitting alpha particles, 
> > accompanied by very low intensity gamma rays. 
> > 
> >Alpha particles do not travel very far -- no more than a few centimetres in 
> >air. They are stopped by a sheet of paper or by the dead layer of outer 
> >skin on our bodies. 
> > 
> >Polonium-210 is used industrially, for example in anti-static devices in 
> >factories. 
> > 
> >Because polonium-210 is a naturally occurring radionuclide, we all have a 
> >very small amount in our bodies. This contributes to the natural radiation 
> >dose we all get every year. 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >2. How can polonium-210 harm people? 
> > 
> >Because it emits alpha particles, Po-210 represents a radiation hazard if 
> >it is taken into the body - by inhalation, ingestion or through wound 
> >entry. 
> > 
> >Since Po-210 only emits gamma rays very weakly, it is not a radiological 
> >hazard as long as it remains outside the body. If taken into the body, 
> >Po-210 is subsequently excreted, mostly through faeces but some is excreted 
> >through urine and other pathways. After uptake to blood, Po-210 is widely 
> >distributed though soft body tissues including bone marrow. The greatest 
> >amounts of polonium-210 are excreted in the first few days after intake. 
> > 
> >The biological half-time (the time for the level of Po-210 in the body to 
> >fall by half) is approximately 50 days. Radiation doses, including those 
> >from polonium-210, are assumed to give rise to an increase in lifetime 
> >cancer risk. The larger the dose, the larger the risk. Very high radiation 
> >doses can cause damage to body tissues and organs and in the extreme can be 
> >fatal. 
> > 
> >If anyone has been internally contaminated by inadvertently ingesting or 
> >inhaling polonium-210, it is most unlikely that they would receive a 
> >radiation dose high enough to give rise to medical symptoms. 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >3. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is an independent body that protects 
> >the health and well-being of the population. The Agency plays a critical 
> >role in protecting people from infectious diseases and in preventing harm 
> >when hazards involving chemicals, poisons or radiation occur. We also 
> >prepare for new and emerging threats, such as a bio-terrorist attack or 
> >virulent new strain of disease. 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >4. Part of the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, 
> >the Radiation Protection Division carries out the Health Protection 
> >Agency's work on ionising and non-ionising radiations. It undertakes 
> >research to advance knowledge about protection from the risks of these 
> >radiations; provides laboratory and technical services; runs training 
> >courses; provides expert information and has a significant advisory role in 
> >the UK . 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >5. Media enquiries to Katherine Lewis , Regional Communications Manager - 
> >Health Protection Agency London, on 020 7759 2824. 
> > 
> > 
> >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed] 
> > 
> >......... 
> ============================ 
> Dr. Peter Hill 
> Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH 
> S-B 
> 52425 Jülich 
> Germany 
> ++49-2461-615081 
> ++49-2461-612166 (FAX) 
> mailto:p.hill at fz-juelich.de 
> ------ 
> -- 
> Prof. Dr. Klaus Becker 
> Boothstr. 27, D-12207 Berlin 
> Phone/Fax +49(0)30-7721284 

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