Hot News from the Vleeptron High Non-Junk Science Council
of the element Polonium,
a "daughter" of the radioactive
decay of Uranium.
After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the cat was out of the bag about Uranium, a previously obscure heavy metal with some industrial uses, but they were nothing compared to the new uses in military and civilian atomic power. The United States was announcing its intention to base its postwar military superiority on A-bombs, and would encourage industry to build so many nuclear power plants that -- as one Atomic Energy Commissioner predicted -- electric power would be so abundant and cheap that its suppliers wouldn't even bother to meter it.
Now the US government and the new industries it was encouraging wanted lots of Uranium, and was willing to pay top dollar.
Just like an old-fashioned gold rush, thousands of prospectors flocked to rich deposits of Uranium ore (called pitchblende) in the deserts of the Western USA and in northwestern Canada. A few companies manufactured tens of thousands of cheap portable Geiger Counters for the boom. By the mid-1950s, the prices for Uranium fell and the boom died down.
The companies stuck with warehouses full of the nifty little suckers slashed their prices and ran little ads in the back of Popular Mechanics to try to get rid of them.
Weird Little Bobby, Age 14, immediately bought a postal money order with his life savings and sent away for one.
I still have it, it's a pre-transistor thingie that uses the most adorably tiny vacuum tubes, it's in cherry condition, and if I can ever figure out how to retrofit the sucker with modern-sized batteries to generate the high DC voltages the Geiger-Muller tube demands, I'll be back in business again.
My quest for Geiger Countering led me recently to join the Yahoo group
I don't know how I lived before I joined it.
Radioactivity is sneaky invisible stuff, and only weirdos who own Geiger Counters
know what's Hot and what's Not in the deceptively innocent world all around us. Right now, as you read People Magazine and sip a Coke, your poor torso could be being bombarded by Alpha, Beta and Gamma Rays up the wazoo, and you wouldn't have a clue.
Here's a thread about the suspected radioactive content of tobacco products. Have patience, and these amateur Geiger Counter guys (so far haven't encounter a single post from a woman) note that smoking marijuana doesn't seem to cause lung cancer.
They suspect the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 in the tobacco.
We just returned from a trip through Georgia's tobacco country. Noticed that the background radiation there is 4 to 5 times higher than here in the midwest. This may be the link we were looking for to justify raised levels in tobacco products, just the natural soil conditions.
--- In GeigerCounterEnthusiasts@yahoogroups.com , "Geo"
not from ash though, from the whole carton, unopened, just with the pancake sitting on top. A better test would be to run a background with a GM-45 and then with the tobbacco on the probe.
Slight variations in background are much easier to see on a computer display than a meter. Could have been my imagination, but I also tested furnace filters, fan filters, dryer lint etc. in that same house, and found the largest and very noticable increase on the TV screen dust.
--- In GeigerCounterEnthusiasts@yahoogroups.com , "Aaron M*******"
aaron@m ... wrote:
The plant material is contaminated with fertilizer dust containing Uranium and uranium daughters. Po-210 would be continuously created in equilibrium with the other daughters. Thus, the inhaled dust particles could radiate for a long time. As the most potent alpha emitter, Po-210 it is believed to cause the majority of the damage.
This theory is bolstered by a variety of things: lack of lung cancers in marijuana smokers, increase in lung cancer rates once this fertilizer came into use, higher than background radioactivity found in cancerous lung tissue samples, as well as a handful of other anomalies.
Evidence that favors (slightly) a chemical carcinogen model for tobacco includes: cancers of the mouth and throat from chewing tobacco and induced skin cancers in animals where tobacco was applied.
This list is always discussing how complicated it is to turn measurement of radioactivity into a determination of biological effect.
Personally, I subscribe to radiation hormesis. the studies I've read seem pretty clear. The dose makes the poison for chemicals and for radiation.
In one of the tobacco industry experiments they 'smoked' a pack of cigarettes with a high-density filter, a tube and a vacuum. Then they tested the filter for radiation as well as attempting to chemically isolate the uranium daughters caught by the filter. I can't find the link to that one anymore.these tobacco disclosure websites keep changing their URL structures.
As far as this group is concerned, I have one vote from Chris that tobacco and tobacco ash had no appreciable increase over background radiation.
George says he's seen it. We are tied. Anyone else want to give it a try?
P.S. A more complicated experiment, which to my knowledge hasn't been tried, would be to expose rats to tobacco smoke, air contaminated only with uranium daughter dust, and fresh air. Over time you could build a picture of cancers present in the three populations.
From: Chris C********
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2005 9:17 PM
Subject: RE: [GeigerCounterEnthusiasts] Tobacco and Polonium-210
I have tried to detect radiation from cigarette ash, and cigarette tobacco with no results. Doesn't mean that it isn't possible. I have heard that some tobacco companies used tailings from uranium mines to help hold water in the soil, but was under the impression that this practice has been stopped. As far a fertilizers with radioactive compounds in them many members have reported measurable amounts over background. Po 210 has a relatively short half-life, so I have trouble believing that it would be the only radioactive substance involved, if radiation is indeed the culprit.
From what I have read there are over 9000 chemical substances created when tobacco is burned. All things considered, I think it is difficult to pin the lung cancer risk on any one cause.
From: Aaron M******* [mailto:aaron@m...]
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2005 6:50 PM
Subject: [GeigerCounterEnthusiasts] Tobacco and Polonium-210
I wrote this article before getting a Geiger counter and really starting to study radioactivity:
I'd be interested in hearing the feedback from the group. Many of you have much more direct experience in working with radioactivity. Does anything stand out as glaringly inaccurate?
Specifically, has anyone tried to measure an increased background radiation level in a pack of cigarettes? Perhaps someone with a sensitive, shielded scintillator would have good results here.