Tobacco companies knew about the presence of Polonium 26 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 8 years ago

Tobacco Companies Hid Evidence of Radiation in Cigarettes for Decades - ABC News

By CARRIE GANN, ABC News Medical Unit Sept. 29, 2011

Tobacco companies knew that cigarettes contained a radioactive substance called polonium-210, but hid that knowledge from the public for over four decades, a new study of historical documents revealed.

Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, reviewed 27 previously unanalyzed documents and found that tobacco companies knew about the radioactive content of cigarettes as early as 1959. The companies studied the polonium throughout the 1960s, knew that it caused "cancerous growths" in the lungs of smokers, and even calculated how much radiation a regular smoker would ingest over 20 years. Then, they kept that data secret.

Hrayr Karagueuzian, the study's lead author, said the companies' level of deception surprised him. "They not only knew of the presence of polonium, but also of its potential to cause cancer," he said.

Karagueuzian and his team replicated the calculations that tobacco company scientists described in these documents and found that the levels of radiation in cigarettes would account for up to 138 deaths for every 1,000 smokers over a period of 25 years.

The study published online in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Cheryl Healton, is the CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, the organization created from the 1998 legal settlement against tobacco companies. She said the knowledge that cigarettes contain radiation is disturbing today, but would have been even more unsettling to Americans in the midst of the Cold War-mindset of the 1950s and 1960s.

"This was when we were crawling under our desks during school radiation drills and thinking about building bomb shelters in our backyards," Healton said. "You probably could not imagine a more ideal time where you would have maximized the impact of that information. Unquestionably, this fact would have reduced smoking if it had been publicized."

She added that most Americans are probably still unaware that cigarettes contain radiation.

Polonium-210 is a radioactive material that emits hazardous particles called alpha particles. There are low levels of it in the soil and the atmosphere, but the fertilizer used to grow tobacco plants contributes to the levels of polonium found in cigarettes.

Dr. John Spangler, a professor of family medicine at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, said when smokers inhale, the radioactive particles damage the tissue on the surface of the lungs, creating "hot spots" of damage. When combined with other cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco, Spangler said the damage from radiation is potent.

"The two together greatly increase your risk of lung cancer," Spangler said. "So tobacco smoke is even more dangerous than you thought before."

David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. tobacco manufacturer, said the public health community has known about polonium in tobacco for decades.

"Polonium 210 is a naturally occurring element found in the air, soil, and water and therefore can be found in plants, including tobacco," Sutton said.

All tobacco products on the market today still contain the polonium. In 1980, scientists discovered that a process called "acid washing" removes up to 99 percent of polonium-210 from tobacco. The documents reviewed by UCLA scientists reveal that tobacco companies knew of this technique, but declined to use it to remove the radioactive material from their products.

Officially, tobacco companies said acid washing would cost too much and might have a negative impact on tobacco farmers and on the environment. But Karagueuzian said the documents his team reviewed revealed another reason why the industry avoided acid washing for tobacco leaves: the process would alter the nicotine in the plants and make it less able to deliver the "instant nicotine rush" smokers craved.

Sutton said Philip Morris USA does not use acid washing on their products today.

Polonium's radioactive particles don't simply vanish when cigarette smoke blows away. Spangler said smokers may not realize how long this radiation can linger in their homes.

"Some of these radiation particles hang around for decades and decades," Spangler said. "You're emitting radiation when you smoke, and your family, your dog, your cat are all inhaling that radiation. How many smokers want to expose their child to radiation?"

Karagueuzian said he hopes the study will prompt the federal government to take further action to regulate tobacco companies and their products. Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required tobacco companies to give detailed information about all new tobacco products and changes to existing ones. In June, the agency introduced new graphic warning labels that will go on all packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"Our study should not be looked at exclusively as an indictment or another charge against tobacco industry," Karagueuzian said. "We hope that our work will provide a solid initial step to remind health officials and the FDA that removal of polonium alpha particles should be at the top of the agenda."

According to a UCLA study, tobacco companies knew as early as 1959 that Polonium was present in their products. They had hid this, along with research on that topic and later methods to remove it, from the public fearing the negative impact of sales it would get. If the results and findings are to be believed, many companies have still refused to remove it and won't use methods to do so.

MrFancypants Forum Administrator

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#2 8 years ago

I read about this yesterday. I wonder whether it is just tobacco that absorbs polonium from fertilizer or whether other plants may also be affected.


GF is my bext friend *hugs GF*

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#3 8 years ago

"""Scientists from the University of California""""

LoL ya there is your real answer.


5.56 smoke Haji every day

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#4 8 years ago

Damn, if only it was a creationist that believed all books aside from the bible were written by the devil to deceive us that had brought forth this information, then we could know it was reliable. Why is it people like that never figure anything out?


I'm too cool to Post

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#5 8 years ago

From what I have read and I admit it is limited at this time, the presence of Polonium in Tobacco seem related to Phosphate fertilizers.

Which begs the question are other organics grown with Phosphates subject to elevated Polonium levels or is there something about Tobacco?

Crazy Wolf Advanced Member

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#6 8 years ago

Red_Fist;5570539"""Scientists from the University of California""""

LoL ya there is your real answer.

How do you mean? It could just as easily read "Scientists from one of the most highly respected centers for scientific research in the world , the University of California, Los Angeles" and still be accurate. Your post has stated absolutely nothing of value. Try again.

A friend of mine's conducting research on tobacco as a way to clean up heavy metals. It further solidifies my desire to not smoke.


I take what n0e says way too seriously

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#7 8 years ago

Wait, you mean cigarettes are bad? What?!

Just one more reason for me to never so much as touch a cigarette in my life.


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#8 8 years ago

News to me. It would seem more lucrative in the long run for the tobacco companies to just do the acid wash -> customers live longer = customers buy more cigarettes.

I'm going to try double to stay away from smoke now, stinks bad enough, shouldn't have to become irradiated (exaggeration) as well. :/

Mother Banhammer



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#9 8 years ago

Red_Fist;5570539"""Scientists from the University of California""""

LoL ya there is your real answer.

its a lie from the liberals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! cali is liberal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! uni of cali means liberal lies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

but if its from uni of texas thats ok tho they never lie lol

Commissar MercZ

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#10 8 years ago

Does it matter what university does it? All universities, particularly upper level ones, are well within their skill to do research- more over these findings were peer-reviewed so...

Plus, most of this was from analyzing documents from various tobacco firms over their own research into the matter that was previously unattainable. So unless the Tobacco firms themselves are in this conspiracy to make themselves look bad, I don't see what the problem is.