Poisoning with polonium 210: symptoms, treatment

The consequences of poisoning with polonium-210: cases in Russia and the world

History radioactive chemical element polonium-210 begins in 1898, when it was opened curies in one of uranium pitch ore. The element was named after Poland, the homeland of the pioneers (lat. Polonium). That is Irene Curie, according to one version, became the first victim of the element, as admitted once that vial of polonium crashed in her lab. A decade later she died of cancer.

Examples of poisoning with polonium-210 in the history

Different versions on frequent cases of cancer began to come later in many parts of the world from the research centers and institutes.

Also first went all sorts of rumors about the involvement of substance polonium-210 to the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, as were traces of this element among the personal belongings of the victim. But despite the criminal case, the cause of death to the end not clarified and all the speculation that the attack was carried out by the intelligence services of Israel, then it remains a conjecture. However, in 2012, carried out the exhumation of the body and handed over the material collected for the study and the verdict of independent experts from different countries. The three laboratories entered institutions of France, Switzerland and Russia. A year later was ready the first results of the research came from the Swiss Lausanne and has been submitted for review to the Palestinian capital. Following in the Palestinian city of Ramallah were also given to the results of research scientists of other countries.

The results of examinations directly to the widow of Yasser Arafat, from which the external world and received information that confirmed an early version of what a leader really was poisoned with polonium-210.

Poisoning with polonium-210 has also been the former officer of FSB Alexander Litvinenko in a suspected assassination attempt on his former staff and colleagues in London. This has become one of the most exciting and high-profile cases of international scandal, and the investigation is still, for more than 10 years. He died a painful death in the hospital of London 22 after two days of terrible pain, when he first almost disappeared leukocytes, and then began to decline bone marrow, and then alternately denied liver, kidneys and heart.

The Litvinenko Case

As shown by the investigation, November 1, 2016 in the foyer of London luxury hotel, Millennium held a meeting of Alexander Litvinenko with former colleagues Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, where tea was added to the poison. In the result of poisoning with the deadly Litvinenko tea in the evening felt unwell, started vomiting. November 4, Litvinenko was hospitalized in the district hospital, and already 17 in the University College Hospital (UCH). On 20 November he was transferred to the intensive care unit.

This thing has taken control of the anti-terrorist unit of Scotland Yard, which conducted an inquiry on the causes of poisoning were produced by actions aimed at the detection of toxic substances. In addition to a variety of analyses has been applied to the radiation detector gamma spectrum, which detects the majority of toxic substances if they are contained in biobench, but nothing was found. Then the samples of biomaterials were transferred to the research Institute of atomic energy, where he engaged in the development and creation of nuclear warheads. The content of polonium was discovered by scientists by accident – describes the behavior of the isotope was mentioned aloud between the specialists, and they heard the developer of relevance to the nuclear reactor, which immediately recognized the behavior that is of Polonius, as polonium-210 is part of the nuclear weapon.

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On the day of detection of causes of poisoning, November 23, Litvinenko died. The investigation of the security services found traces of the rare isotope in places that were called for the alleged killer Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun – at the stadium, in a cafe, hotel, restaurants and cafes.

Polonium-210 was discovered:

  • in the plane on which Lugovoi flew to Moscow after the incident;
  • in the house of Alexander Litvinenko;
  • at Heathrow airport;
  • at the hospital on Easton road;
  • in the office of the security company to GROOVER street;
  • the Millennium hotels, Sheraton Park lane;
  • at the sushi bar ITSU;
  • in the office of Boris Berezovsky.

The day after her husband’s death the widow Maria Litvinenko was forced to leave his apartment – on the charges she was given only 20 minutes. According to investigators, such measures were necessary to her safety had been seriously contaminated by radiation. On 1 December the widow will be hospitalized with a high content in the body of polonium-210.

Panic because of the possible mass contamination with polonium-210 covered the entire city, had taken the tests the visitors of sushi bar and other places where investigators found the radioactive trail.

But for unknown reasons, the British government refused to give the PM report, the autopsy results and other investigation documents to the Russian side. Russia, in turn, concluded that the interest of England in the distortion of the facts that will allow you to customize all of the events for their respective version.

Of the Russian Federation conducted an investigation and decided that D. A. Kovtun and Lugovoi was also affected, it was considered attempted murder and traces of poisoning by polonium-210. In the case of the Litvinenko’s murder criminal case under suspicion in which, besides the British government, see the companion Alexander Litvinenko from Italy, Mario Scaramella, whom he met at the sushi bar ITSU, a few hours before the meeting in the «Millennium». Litvinenko himself, even while in the hospital, said that he felt bad just after a meeting with Italian counterpart. In ITSU he handed him the documents in the case of Anna Politkovskaya. Traces of polonium-210 were found at Scaramella, in his hotel room and in other locations of his presence.

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After the incident, the hotline London service phoned more than a thousand casualties, over a hundred identified the content of polonium-210.

Why use polonium-210

Radioactive polonium is a metal, silvery-white, relatively soft, is found in uranium ore. Unique in many respects, this element was first inscribed in the periodic table as radioactive. Located at number 84, characterized in that among the non-stable isotopes of the lightest element. Used in space research.

Was not known to the General public until it became the cause of the scandalous deaths. Very rare in nature, to produce artificially the necessary nuclear reactor. The list of countries that are engaged in the production of polonium-210 is very broad – it includes North Korea, Israel and several other countries, including Russia.

The half-life of polonium-210 is 138 days and 9 hours, then it loses its radioactive properties. Rapidly oxidized in the air, you can’t take it in your hands and breathe in close proximity. Thanks to alpha radiation over long distances, it is not dangerous and the harm is greatly reduced if the distance of the hazardous facility exceeds 10 cm.

Is used to remove the static electricity as the heat source for space objects in industrial applications as a neutron source, an experimental method to fight against cancer.

Also polonium-210 were found in tobacco leaves, which confirmed the detrimental value of Smoking to one’s health. However, to bring the isotope from the leaves of tobacco have so far not succeeded.

The symptoms and treatment for poisoning by polonium-210

Production and manufacture of polonium in Russia and in other countries classified by the government and controlled by each milligram of extracted metal. For this reason, to meet somewhere polonium accidentally quite difficult, although for example in the US there were attempts to use it in household utensils – for example, in the form of anti-static brushes, which does not stick dust. Safe packing neutralizes the radioactive dangers of the element and the value of the alpha particle in polonium are intended – in this case ionize the air.

But if there was contact with the deadly poison as polonium-210, you need to immediately seek medical help.

Not having obvious signs of this poisoning causes the development of radiation disease with pronounced symptoms of radiation poisoning. The resulting damage and the symptoms are directly dependent on the dose of the element.

Like poisoning with other toxic metals, poisoning with polonium-210 manifested by the following symptoms:

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • tachycardia combined with hypertension;
  • fatigue, lack of energy;
  • disturbance of consciousness, delirium;

In addition to the General symptoms of radiation sickness has a number of distinct features that outwardly manifest themselves in hair loss, General sharp the aging process and the further failure of all organs, starting with liver as the first fighter for the processing of the drug, and kidneys, as a tool of diversion. In the future, when a critical dose is a full damage immunity and leukocyte, which is responsible for it. Hence it can be additional symptoms of lack of lymph and bone marrow.

Once in the body, polonium-210 is evenly distributed through the blood to all organs and tissues. It has a nearly uniform concentration can be noticed already after a few hours after the poisoning. The metabolic processes of the bodies after contact with poison violated as well as system – circulatory, nervous, digestive, heart. The chair becomes blood, or perhaps none. CNS disorders can be causes of seizures, psychoses, and delusions. Peripheral nervous system no longer provides the propulsion motor skills that leads to its violation, and also a terrible weakness. Heart disorder provoke attacks, the autonomic nervous system – tachycardia, and blood pressure. The person also may occur partial or complete blindness.

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The treatment should start as early as possible, as the longer the polonium remains in the body, the more chances to pass the «point of no return» and fatally damage the organs. Polonium is very well absorbed into all organs and tissues, so infection is possible, if you just touch the metal. But once inside, this isotope is absorbed into the tissue of the organs in just a few minutes. When touched, immediately and abundantly flush the area of the body that had contact with the isotope, soap or washing powder.

By ingestion of polonium in the body through the esophagus should be immediately induce vomiting. As the account goes on a minute and we can’t wait, doctors use apomorphine by injection under the skin. Next, you need a laxative – magnesium sulfate, sodium sulfate, enemas.

Polonium for 6-11 months can be completely excreted from the body through the kidneys, but this time, it is able to accumulate and cause harm – for example, partial or complete baldness.

If polonium is absorbed into the tissue of the bodies deep enough that doctors use connection-based drugs such as unitiol and oxalyl who are able to «get it» polonium-210 «from the depths» and bring him outside. They are administered by dropper in the hospital for weeks. After this treatment the healing.

As polonium-210 difficult to detect, but also because of the rarity of such poisoning issue is not investigated fully, which reduces the chances of a favorable prognosis. Therefore, in the treatment of such poisoning is the main stage of early diagnosis of the disease to lie to help the body, while deadly poison damaged organs too much.