Polonium-210
Officials understate risks, and mislead the public, leaving exposed people unprotected
Michael Clark of Health Protection Agency(3Kb) Photo credit:

Michael Clark of Health Protection Agency: Failing to understand

In the emergency following the death of Alexander Litvinenko, there are serious shortcomings in the approach taken by the UK authorities. While the advice published by NHS Direct may seem to show official measures are thorough, the Health Protection Agency-Radiation Protection Department (HPARP) consistently plays down the ease with which Polonium-210 can be obtained and over-estimates the quantity required to cause death and serious long-term illness. The language used in news reports, for example New Scientist 27th November, betrays the influence of a controlling hand anxious to avoid public alarm.

The news media report that the absence of acute radiation sickness in people like Mario Scaramella is a sign that there is no health problem. The outcome of giving undue emphasis to acute radiation sickness is that long-term stochastic effects are being dismissed, yet according to the conventional radiation risk model employed by HPARP there is no threshold for induction of these effects and inevitability they will appear eventually. We fear that potentially exposed people will be inadequately monitored both now and in the future when otherwise they could be given enhanced screening so that cancer and leukaemia would be detected early, offering a better chance of successful treatment.

Our advice to people who think they might have been exposed to Polonium-210 is that they should reject reassurances from NHS Direct and insist on being included in the 24- hour urine testing which is offered to passengers from the airliners and to Litvinenko's contacts to determine whether their bodies contain elevated Polonium-210.

Calculations submitted to HPARP and Dept. of Health
Letter to HPARP
(These are pdf files)


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