Polonium 210 – A Deadly Radon Byproduct

A British court revealed earlier this year that in 2006, Russian spies murdered former KGB operative Alexander Litvinenko using polonium-210. The story blew to massive proportions as Russian president Vladimir Putin said he “probably” approved the killing, showing the brutality and underhanded dealings of the Russian government, according to the Observer.

Polonium-210As polonium-210 decays, it releases alpha particles, which are not as dangerous as gamma particles, but can be fatal if released inside the human body. CNN outlined the effects of the element several years ago. Careful hand washing and showering can usually get rid of the substance, but it can also easily be ingested by eating or drinking contaminated items, breathing contaminated air or from a contaminated wound. While it can be difficult to get polonium-210 in your system, a dangerous dose can be smaller than a single speck of pepper.

Poisoning from polonium-210 looks like the final stages of cancer as liver and kidney damage ensue, including extreme nausea and severe headaches. The decaying particles get absorbed into the body, causing further harm. Death comes in a matter of days, although some make it a few weeks. There is no cure, and although there are a few experimental treatments, nothing has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While you may think it’s unlikely that you could be poisoned by polonium-210 – you’re not a former KGB spy or engaged in any other sort of political espionage, after all – it could be lurking nearer than you think, as polonium-210 is just one of the many decay byproducts produced from radon.

According to Black Cat Systems, radon decays through a number of radioactive elements until arriving at lead after nearly 23 years. The final step before lead is polonium-210, which has a half life of 138.38 days. This means that with as ubiquitous as radon is – especially here in the Midwest – it’s possible that this deadly toxin is inside your home in small quantities right now.

A licensed radon technician can take readings from inside your home as part of a thorough home inspection. At Pristine Inspections & Testing, we’re dedicated to ensuring that our neighbors and homeowners throughout the region are aware of the dangers of radon and work to protect themselves and their families from not only the radioactive gas, but its equally harmful byproducts. To schedule an inspection appointment, give us a call today at 217-352-3743.