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Polonium-210: A Deeper Look

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posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 02:07 AM
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Figured there was alot of speculation into exactly how deadly (or non-deadly) Polonium is. I sat down and did some research and pulled together alot of facts for everyone to pour over. I tried to narrow my research of Polonium to strictly the uses, health effects, and production of Polonium-210. If you follow the links at the bottom of this page you will find more indepth research of Polonium.

With the recent events of this material being used to murder a ex-spy, I figured this would be a useful and informative addition to ATS.

-QS

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Defination:

Polonium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Po and atomic number 84. A rare radioactive metalloid, polonium is chemically similar to tellurium and bismuth and occurs in uranium ores. Polonium has been studied for possible use in heating spacecraft. It exists as a number of isotopes.

Polonium-210



This isotope of polonium is an alpha emitter that has a half-life of 138.376 days. A milligram of 210Po emits as many alpha particles as 5 grams of radium. A great deal of energy is released by its decay with a half a gram quickly reaching a temperature above 750 K. A few curies (gigabecquerels) of 210Po emit a blue glow which is caused by excitation of surrounding air. A single gram of 210Po generates 140 watts of power. Since nearly all alpha radiation can be easily stopped by ordinary containers and upon hitting its surface releases its energy, 210Po has been used as a lightweight heat source to power thermoelectric cells in artificial satellites. A 210Po heat source was also used in each of the Lunokhod rovers deployed on the surface of the Moon, to keep their internal components warm during the lunar nights. As it decays, half a gram of 210Po generates 140 watts of energy.

Polonium Uses: Precious Metal Encasing

Polonium, encased in precious metals such as gold, is most commonly used in Alpha Ionization, or otherwise known as "Static Control".

If Polonium-210 is incased in a material such as gold, there are virtually no risks of exposure to radiation emitted from the substance. Polunium has penetrating ranges of roughly 40um and less, whereas the dead layer of cells that consist of the human skin has a protection of 250-300um.

So basically, Polonium is quite harmless when encased in precious metals. What about if it's not encased? Just how deadly is this stuff?

Ingestion:

Polonium can be taken into the body by eating food, drinking water, or breathing air. Between 50% and 90% of the polonium taken in by ingestion will promptly leave the body in feces.

The fraction remaining in the body enters the bloodstream. In general, the spleen and kidneys concentrate polonium more than other tissues except for temporary deposition in the lung after inhalation of an insoluble form. It is estimated that approximately 45% of ingested polonium will be deposited in the spleen, kidneys, and liver, with 10% deposited in bone marrow and the remainder distributed throughout the body. The amount of polonium in the body will decrease with a half-time of 50 days.

"An alpha particle strikes a strand of DNA. It snips it in two, which is bad news, or glues two strands together. Either way normal cell repair mechanisms may be unable to sort that out," said Sella.

"The result is that essentially the cellular command and control network (in the body) falls apart. That is what radiation sickness is all about,"

Time to Kill: As a poison

At a committed effective dose equivalent (CEDE) of 5.14×10−7 sieverts per becquerel (1.9×103 mrem/microcurie) for ingested 210Po and a specific activity of 1.66×1014 Bq/gram (4.49×103 curies/gram) the amount of material required to produce a lethal dose of 10 sieverts would be only 0.12 micrograms (1.17×10−7g) or about 525 microcuries. The biological halflife is 50 to 30 days in humans.

Lethal Dose: 0.12 Microgram

Breakdown:

gram (g), kilogram (Kg), milligram (mg), microgram (ug) - let's not belabor this. These are units of mass in the metric system. The basic unit is the gram (0.002205 lb.). 1000 grams equals a kilogram. A milligram is 1/1000th of a gram (i.e. 1000 mg equal 1 g). A microgram is 1/1000th of a milligram and 1/1,000,000th of a gram (i.e.1000 ug equals 1 mg and 1,000,000 ug equals 1g).

And lastly:

How it's made:

Initially, the recovery of polonium was attempted from naturally occurring sources such as lead-containing wastes from uranium, vanadium, and radium refining operations. Upon investigation, it became apparent that sufficient quantities of polonium could not be recovered from these sources without processing prohibitively large amounts of material. To obtain polonium in the quantities needed, other approaches to its production were investigated, and the transmutation of bismuth metal to polonium-210 by neutron irradiation was selected for production scale operations.

Due to its scarcity, polonium-210 is usually produced artificially in a nuclear reactor by bombarding bismuth-209 (a stable isotope) with neutrons. This forms radioactive bismuth-210, which has a half-life of 5 days. Bismuth-210 decays to polonium-210 through beta decay. Milligram amounts of polonium-210 will have been produced by this method. The longer-lived isotopes polonium-209 (half-life 103 years) and polonium-208 (half-life 2.9 years) are also produced in reactors or particle accelerators.

"It is not as simple as the idea that somebody might have broken into a radioactivity cabinet at some local hospital and walked off with some polonium," Dr Andrea Sella, a lecturer in chemistry at University College London, told Reuters.

"You can't make this at home. This is in a different league,"

en.wikipedia.org...
www.company7.com...
www.ion.com...
www.ead.anl.gov...
www.convert-me.com...
www.alertnet.org...



[edit on 11/26/2006 by QuietSoul]




posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 02:13 AM
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So basically, Polonium is quite harmless when encased in precious metals. What about if it's not encased? Just how deadly is this stuff?


I think it's harmless unless absorbed by the body, whether encased in gold or not. The main radiation is alpha particles which are able to be stopped by dead skin, paper, or almost anything else.



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 02:16 AM
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By weight, it is 250,000,000 times more poisonous than cyanide.

Bad, Bad stuff.

To make things wose, there is NO antidote.



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 11:29 AM
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jesus. the use of the weight to determine the toxicity of a radioactive element is misleading, to say the LEAST.



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 11:34 AM
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Originally posted by Unrealised
By weight, it is 250,000,000 times more poisonous than cyanide.


I think it's actually more than that, the Wikipedia article says 2.5 x 10^11 times which would be 250,000,000,000.


[edit on 11/26/2006 by djohnsto77]



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 12:26 PM
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Im no scientist, but this raised many obvious questions.
how was it induced, if it was digested, wouldn't he of known since it would be a notable amount??

Whoever wanted to kill him, why would they use that, knowing it would take 3 weeks to kill.??

Also, its too obvious, where's the first place you would look, Russia?
But there not stupid, or were they just that brazen to do it anyway?

Would someone else do this, to make it look like the obvious perpetrator, for a reason?

Sorry its not all scientific, but i have been thinking this alot, and seemed a good time to ask these things.

[edit on 26-11-2006 by Denied]



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 02:56 PM
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Great work, Quiet!

I also did a bit of research into the production and uses of Po-210 for an earlier thread.

Encapsulated Polonium being used for anti-static devices makes it seem like a relatively benign element, when correctly handled, I agree.

But I think you might have over-looked another, somewhat more sinister, application:


As a strong neutron-emitter, Po-210 can be used as Trigger For Nuclear Weapons!


Per your research, as posted, one would almost have to believe that this "ex-KGB/FSB spy" was such a threat to "somebody" that not only was it decided to kill him, but to make an example of him by killing him with slow poison.

But in this instance, not even one of the dozens (thousands?) of available slow-acting, incurable poisons were deemed sufficient. No, if we are to believe the current spin on this story, This victim was So special that per year, world-wide, only 100 grams of the material selected for his extermination are produced.

And production of the material virtually requires the dedicated use of a Nuclear Reactor or Particle Accelerator!

Does anyone seriously believe that an order was given at some unnamed nuke plant to "pop some Bismuth-209 into the old girl, the Assassination team needs a spot of Po-210 for a contract in Jolly Old London"?

I think that the source of the Po-210 was a nuclear trigger.

If you have access to nuclear triggers, you probably have acces to nuclear weapons.

If you have access to nuclear weapons, and are willing to risk advertising that fact by committing (or at least, authorizing) a high-profile assassination employing what is essentailly a component to a nuclear device...

What are saying to the world?

Perhaps that your fears have come true; The genie is out of the bottle, and none of our three wishes involve world peace.

When the medium is a nuclear weapon, the message is loud and clear.

I would not be suprised to hear, over the next few weeks, of growing concerns in the UK over the possible existence of a "dirty bomb". The official concern, the one Not expressed to the public, will be of something far more terrible.



posted on Nov, 26 2006 @ 03:43 PM
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Originally posted by Denied
Im no scientist, but this raised many obvious questions.
how was it induced, if it was digested, wouldn't he of known since it would be a notable amount??

? Take a gram. Divide it into a million equal parts. Now take one of those parts, break it into four equal peices. Take one of those peices. Thats the lethal dose. No one is going to notice that.


Whoever wanted to kill him, why would they use that, knowing it would take 3 weeks to kill.??

What does it matter that it takes a long while? Its unstoppable. Who's going to do anything about it???


But there not stupid, or were they just that brazen to do it anyway?

Considering that they tried twice to assasinate the president of the ukraine, and assasinated a reporter who was critical of putin, and got away with it all, yeah, I'd say that they're brazen enoguh.


Sorry its not all scientific, but i have been thinking this alot, and seemed a good time to ask these things.

THey're sensible enough questions. But just look at it, its blatantly obvious that the russians did this, and no one, anywhere, is in any position to do anything about it.



posted on Nov, 29 2006 @ 10:01 PM
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Putin did it blatantly. He was making the point he can do exactly what he wants and western govts. will do nothing about it. All that natural gas...



posted on Nov, 30 2006 @ 04:00 PM
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Polonium-210 can sometimes be found in cigarettes, so scientists are testing to see if polonium-210 is the source of lung-cancer (through inhaling).

Btw. Quiet-mind... All of this could have been avoided if you had just said 2 words; "Polonium-210, Alpha Decay" and then referenced to wikipedia



posted on Nov, 30 2006 @ 04:16 PM
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Polonium-210 can actually be purchased from Bob Lazar's website - United Nuclear Scientific Equipment & Supplies (www.unitednuclear.com...) for $69.

Bob Lazar for anyone who doesn't know is the physicist who claims to have been a former Area 51 employee who was hired to work on reverse-engineering alien spacecraft.





posted on Nov, 30 2006 @ 04:57 PM
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Yes, it seems polonium is more available than I thought.

You can buy it from this common source for science materials in the U.S.:



Carolina Biological Supply

Safe for classroom use. Consists of one each of alpha (Po-210-S), beta (Sr-90-S), and gamma (Co-60-S) sources. Each is embedded in a color-coded clear epoxy material that seals the radioactivity inside. Packaged in a clear plastic box. FOB Oak Ridge, TN. NOTE: Sold only to schools and businesses.


It says it's only sold to schools and businesses, but that seems easy to get around.

I wonder how much polonium is in one of these alpha particle emitters sold to schools?

[edit on 11/30/2006 by djohnsto77]



posted on Nov, 30 2006 @ 05:38 PM
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Fantastic and very informative research QuietSoul.

I have a testing theory.

Find it here.



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