The Killer Named Polonium

Polonium is radioactive element and only dangerous if ingested. Toxicity of this element is a million times more lethal than cyanide. Radioactive elements is reported very crowded around the world allegations related to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of poisoning with this radioactive element.

Name polonium was first made headlines when a radioactive element is used to kill Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy agent of KGB Russia is turned into a critic of the Russian government, in London in 2006. Now the polonium back into spotlight after the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat, requested that the bodies were exhumed, after Swiss researchers found traces of radioactive polonium-210 used on clothing before Arafat died in 2004.

What exactly is polonium? Polonium-210 is one of the world's rarest elements found in 1898 by scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. Radioactive element polonium was named, as the name of the country of origin Curie, the Polish.

Naturally, this element is actually only found in the earth's crust in very low concentrations. However, these materials can also be made in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, like CERN, in Switzerland. A small amount of polonium used for industrial activities, especially on a device to eliminate static electricity.

Polonium is very dangerous. Although very small dose, if ingested, can cause death polonium. In doses of less than 1 gram alone, the silver powder enough for killing humans.

Forensic Magazine said, according to toxicology reports Litvinenko, a former spy claimed more than 10 times the lethal dose of poison. "That indicates the killer intended to silence him for good," the magazine said. The presence of toxin polonium-210 has also recently revealed a few hours before he died. This toxin is a million times more lethal than cyanide and polonium in the amount of a grain of salt is enough to kill.
The deadly effects of Polonium-210. (Picture from:
Studies conducted radiation expert from the UK Health Protection Agency in 2007 concluded, as polonium-210 into the blood stream, the effect is almost impossible to stop. Polonium-210 poisoning victims will experience multiple organ failure when alpha radiation particles bombard the liver, kidney, and bone marrow from the inside. Litvinenko shown symptoms such as nausea, hair loss, swollen throat, and pale face, a typical effect of polonium poisoning.

Francois Bochud, Head of the Institute of Radiation Physics, Lausanne, Switzerland, which examined a sample of clothing Arafat, said his lab found the polonium-210 in small quantities. Levels found in blood and urine samples of clothing was far above normal, more than 100 millibecquerel, unit of measure of radioactivity.

That figure is far higher than the control sample, which is 10 millibecquerel. Bochud stressed the need for further testing. "What we can say is we found the level of polonium unexplained, thus leading to the hypothesis of poisoning, but the results of our investigation is not evidence of poisoning."

Meanwhile, Professor Dr Thomas Fanghanel, Director of the Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) in Karlsruhe, Germany, doubts that Arafat poisoning cases can be revealed. Therefore, Arafat's body was buried in 2004 and polonium has a half life is short, only 138 days.

"I suspect it will be very difficult to prove poisoning after eight years," he said. "About 20 part-time period has passed since then. After that, only a fraction of a million of the remaining original material."

This element is very interesting for the killer because it can be a very powerful weapon. Alfanya large particle radiation, so it can not penetrate the skin. In addition, this element is not legible radiation detectors at airports. That means polonium relatively easily smuggled across international borders.

What is Polonium-210?
(Picture from: PIKIRAN RAKYAT 06072012)
Although it can not penetrate the skin, polonium can enter the body through wounds or ingested. Surely the most appropriate method to consume the victim is put into food or drink. Litvinenko, for example, drinking tea laced with polonium in a meeting at a luxury hotel in London.

Polonium poisoning until now considered very rare, so doctors may take several weeks to diagnose the disease Litvinenko and security experts have to fight hard to find cases of polonium poisoning before.

Until now, more than five years after the death of Litvinenko, no one person is detained. British investigators accused another former KGB spy agent, Andrei Lugovoi, as their prime suspect, but Russia gov. refused to extradite him.

Curie's daughter, Irene, also thought to be a victim of polonium malignancy. Irene, who died of leukemia, there is likely to suffer from the disease, after accidentally exposed to polonium in the laboratory.

Journalist and author from Israel, Michal Karpin, claiming the deaths from cancer experienced a number of investigators Israel is the result of leakage that occurs at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1957. But Israeli officials have never acknowledged the existence of the leak connection with the death of its scientists.

Luckily a very deadly poison is difficult to obtain. This radioactive element uranium is a remainder of the chemical processing, but generally these elements created artificially in a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator. Nuclear facilities are closely monitored and regulated in international treaties.

John Croft, of the British radiation expert involved in the case of Litvinenko, said that not just anyone can get a dose of polonium is enough to kill humans. Polonium in large quantities can only be used by the government of a country that has a military or civilian nuclear facilities.

Only a few countries that meet that category. Russia is one of them, because the country does produce polonium for the industry. It is likely that polonium to kill Litvinenko's life comes from the country. Israel, bitter enemies of Arafat, it also has facilities. So did dozens of other countries, including the United States. *** [AP | TJANDRA DEWI | KORAN TEMPO 3935]

Challenge for Scientists
Although the Institute of Radiation Physics Laboratory in Lausanne, France, managed to find traces of the radioactive element polonium-210 a high level in urine and blood samples left in the clothes of Yasser Arafat, the road to prove that the Palestinian leader was poisoned is still long. The scientists warn that radioactive traces were not sufficient evidence.

However, the decision to explore and examine the corpse back there is the possibility of generating a more robust evidence. Derek Hill, an expert in the science of radiology at University College London, said that after eight years of Arafat's death in 2004, polonium left in his body may have been shed and radioactive materials that could be traced only a few. But he said the numbers are still much higher than normal levels.

"Autopsies are likely to provide reliable evidence of whether there polonium in Arafat's body when he died," said Hill. French doctors who treated Arafat said he died of a severe stroke.

However, radiochemical experts from Germany, Thomas Fanghanel, admitted free if polonium-210 in samples of the former Palestinian president's clothing can still be detected. Special nature of polonium-210 is the half-life period is relatively short, only 138 days, making it difficult to prove whether or not Arafat was poisoned, his body was interred after eight years.

"Of course it depends on the amount of toxic material entering the body," he said. "However, if we assume that the fatal dose of about 100 nanograms, I doubt it can still be detected today."

Fanghanel is Director of the Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) in Karlsruhe. Research centers together with the European Commission was also involved in nuclear forensic examination, but Arafat was not involved in the investigation. Fanghanel states, even though checked by secondary ion mass spectrometer, which can find very small particles, traces of polonium-210 remains elusive.

"I really doubt that even Arafat's body exhumed, absolute proof can be found," he said. *** [DW | FORENSICMAG | KORAN TEMPO 3935]
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