Polonium and the Super Top Secret Soviet Tea Cup

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been following the recent Polonium poisoning with something of a sordid curiousity. Doesn’t radioactive poisoning of Soviet spies only occur in Bond movies? I mean it’s not very often that you see anyone die from an intentional radioactive poisoning.

From Wikipedia:

On November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later, becoming the victim of a high profile nuclear crime and the first known victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. The fact that Litvinenko’s revelations about FSB misdeeds were followed by his poisoning — and his public accusations that the Russian government was behind his malady — resulted in worldwide media coverage.

So British investigators began digging and what they found just kept getting more and more twisted. The whole thing is looking a little like when those dye protectors explode on bank robbers.

British and US government sources both said the use of 210Po as a poison has never been documented before, and this was probably the first time a person has been tested for the presence of polonium-210 in his or her body. According to Maxim Shingarkin, an expert on radiation safety, the theory of Litvinenko’s exposure to 210Po at the sushi bar or at the hotel’s restaurant is not viable, given the nature of 210Po. If it is uncontained — mixed into food or a drink — 210Po will quickly transform into its aerosol form, effectively contaminating an enclosed space. Had this been the case, the other customers and the staff of the sushi bar and the restaurant would be severely affected as well. Since all the locations where the presence of 210Po was detected display only trace amounts, originating from Litvinenko himself, his initial exposure to the substance may have occurred elsewhere. Since this original assessment, however, a highly contaminated tea cup has been identified in the Pines Bar of the Millenium Hotel, and police are now convinced that the poison was in Litvinenko’s tea cup.

Even now, in the new year, reports are still surfacing:

Polonium-210 found at London restraurant

Traces of the radioactive substance that killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko have been found at an Italian restaurant in London.

Polonium-210 was found at the Pescatori restaurant in Dover Street, Mayfair. The restaurant is believed to be among the locations visited by three Russian men who met Mr Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair on the day he fell ill.

On Wednesday, the HPA announced that a further two people had tested positive for polonium – a member of staff at the Best Western Hotel in Piccadilly and a guest who visited the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.

There are a total of 12 people who have tested positive for radioactivity.

So the moral of the story is, when in Russia, don’t be a spyin’ and don’t drink tea!

Bastardized from Shakespeare Abridged, Hamlet Part Deux: “He killed with Polonium, what a felonium!”


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