Scribblings Resurrection

Radioactive Russian

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

I’m intrigued by the case of Alexander Litvinenko the Russian who died recently in London amidst claims, not least from himself, that he’d been done in by the Russian government.

While Litvinenko was still alive I thought his symptoms seemed to indicate that he might well be suffering from radiation sickness, a view which was enhanced when a picture of him languishing in his hospital bed was published in the newspapers. No one, including his doctors and his circle of often somewhat disreputable friends, seemed to have considered this though and preferred the notion that he’d been poisoned by somehow being given a dose of thallium.

Shortly before his death last week, or was it shortly after, information appeared that Litvinenko’s urine was radioactive apparently because it contained polonium 210 (210Po). Ah-ha, thought I, told you so. To answer the question of why no one had thought to check for radiation before the explanation was that because polonium 210 is an alpha emitter and alpha particles don’t pass through skin then it wouldn’t have shown up. The implication, of course, is that they had checked and hadn’t detected anything. But then, it wasn’t detected in his body was it? It was found in his urine but quite why they hadn’t thought to check that before no one appears to have said.

Since Litvinenko’s death police and the Health Protection Agency have been zapping around London visiting places which Litvinenko might have visited to check if any of those places had traces of polonium and, lo, they’ve found quite a lot of the stuff. They’ve found it in restaurants where he ate, his home, a hotel where he had a meeting, the office of an associate and various other places which escape me right now.

What baffles me is just how Litvinenko managed to leave traces of a substance from the inside of his body in so many different places. I can’t think of any scenarios where this might occur and leave significant traces unless Litvinenko was in the habit of urinating in public or something. Even assuming that polonium is excreted from the body in the sweat or the hair Litvinenko’s mere presence in a room wasn’t likely to have left significant amounts lying around was it?

I smell a rat in all this as, it seems, do numerous other people including the police who are still treating his death as suspicious rather than unlawful killing. It’s almost as if the polonium traces have been left deliberately although for what reason I can’t begin to think.

And just how radioactive is Litvinenko anyway? Camden Council has now said that a post-mortem examination will begin this coming Friday. Until now, it’s been said that no examination could be carried out until the safety of the pathologists and others could be assured. Fair enough but someone would have to be pretty goddamned radioactive for them to be a danger to others and, if that were the case, Litvinenko would surely not have survived for as long as he did.

Posted 28 November 2006, 20:15 GMT