[ RadSafe ] Radiation risks associated with tobacco revised downwards Radioactivity in cigarettes a review

parthasarathy k s ksparth at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Mar 29 09:24:30 CDT 2011

Franta Jaroslav,

Radiation dose to lung is due to polonium-210 and lead 210 in the  tobacco. We 
cannot measure them directly. There are standard  radio-analytical methods 
available for it. The presence of these  nuclides in cigarettes was known for 
the past several decades. I  wrote a review on the topic a few years ago. You 
can access one of them at:



From: "Franta, Jaroslav" <frantaj at aecl.ca>
To: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Sent: Tue, 29 March, 2011 19:12:31
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Radiation risks associated with tobacco revised 


Dear Radsafers,

Regarding radium 226 and polonium 210 in tobacco leaves, what type of 
instrumentation can detect these + daughter radionuclides in, say, a large 
carton of cigarettes ?
Is spectroscopy showing identifiable peaks possible ? ....with portable machines 
? ....how much time required to get clear ID ?



-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl]On
Behalf Of Colette Tremblay
Sent: January 6, 2009 11:09 AM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Radiation risks associated with tobacco revised downwards 


Here is a quick English translation of a paper published in today's  LE MONDE 
(Paris, France) newspaper. The original French language article is available at:


Do cigarettes consumers face, without knowing it, the risk of irradiation from 
radioactive substances in tobacco? A team of French specialists, led by Jacques 
and Anne Julian Simon (Central Nuclear Medicine, CHU Toulouse Purpan), brings, 
in a study released Tuesday January 6 at the National Academy of Medicine, a new 
light, to re-evaluate downwards the estimates of radiation exposure that 
prevailed until then. 

The question was raised since March 2006, when experts from the International 
Atomic Energy (IAEA) reported that the "radiation exposure" related to the 
consumption of 20 cigarettes per day was an average annual dose of 53 
millisieverts ( mSv). Such exposure to radiation is far from negligible, since 
it amounts to more than 20 times the annual average natural exposure in France 
(about 2.4 mSv) and 2.5 times the individual annual limit that the regulations 
allow for nuclear workers (20 mSv / year). It would be a statistically 
significant risk of radiation-induced cancers. 


Although generally unknown to consumers, the radioactive character of tobacco is 
an accepted by all researchers in this field. The origin of this radiation is 
due mostly to the application of phosphate fertilizers containing various 
radionuclides, including radium 226 and polonium 210. The natural radioactivity 
due to telluric radon 222 is, on the other hand, an indirect cause of the 
tobacco radioactivity. Various works have also highlighted large differences due 
to the origin of tobacco plants and cultivation methods. 

It was in this context that was assessed the level of consumer exposure to this 
radiation and the role it can play in the occurrence of lung cancer. 

Since 2006, the disturbing conclusions of the IAEA have been included in various 
journals and other researchers found that consumers of tobacco are exposed to 
higher doses, up to 80 mSv per year. 

In contrast, a study published in March 2007 in the journal Radiation Protection 
Dosimetry-concluded that consumption of 20 cigarettes per day corresponded to an 
exposure of about 0.17 mSv. This dose, 300 times lower than the estimates of the 
IAEA, corresponds to the radiation exposure caused by a 16-hour duration 
long-distance flight or two chest X-rays. 

In trying to understand the origin of such discrepancies, the French team 
carried out a methodical analysis of all available publications. After 
explaining the different scientific approaches to assess the levels of exposure 
to such radiation, the authors suggest that smoking "delivers an effective small 
dose of artificial radiation, around 0.4 mSv per year". "The IAEA estimate at 53 
mSv per year can not be accepted," they said. The contradictory data on the 
artificial radiation linked to smoking are due to the use by the IAEA of an 
unusual methodology that does not conform to the existing scientific use for 
studying the expression and quantification of human exposure to ionizing 

The authors point out, however, that smoking is responsible each year in France, 
of about 60 000 premature deaths, including 45 000 from cancer. 

Jean-Yves Nau.


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