By Brianna Rego
- People worldwide smoke almost six trillion cigarettes a year, and each on delivers a small amount of polonium 210 to the lungs
- Although polonium may not be the primary carcinogen in cigarette smoke, it may nonetheless cause thousands of deaths a year in the U.S. alone
- By searching through internal tobacco industry documents, I have discovered that manufacturers even devised processes that would dramatically cut down the isotope's concentrations in cigarettes still contain as much polonium today as they did half a century ago
- In June 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law (legislation brings tobacco for the first time under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, allowing the agency to regulate certain components of cigarettes
- Forcing the industry to finally remove polonium from cigarette smoke would be one of the most straightforward ways to start making cigarettes less deadly
- In the first half of the 1960s the health effects of radiation, and in particular of radioactivity fallout, were very much on the minds of scientist-as well as on the minds of most other people
- Trace concentrations of radioactive isotopes are common in the environment and contribute to the natural radiation background
- Colleagues at Harvard studying polonium both in cigarettes and in the lungs of smokers
- Polonium does in fact collect in specific areas of the lung because of the way our airways branch into bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli, the radioisotopes settle and concentrate at the points of bifurcation. There they form "hot spots" of radioactivity, emitting alpha particles
- Over the next 10 years scientists continued to research polonium in cigarette smoke and also how the radioisotope gets into the tobacco plant itself-and thus at what stage of the cigarette-manufacturing process it could be most effectively taken out
- It had been generally accepted for some time that exposure to radiation from radon "daughters" was the principal cause of elevated cancer risk in uranium miners
- Reasoning that because of smokers' chronic exposure to low, concentrated doses, polonium 210 was likely the primary cause of their lung cancer and perhaps-as he suggested later-of other types of cancer as well
- Other components of cigarette smoke have also been found to be powerful carcinogens, and today most experts would probably say that the main ones are chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines
- In the 1990s historic lawsuits brought by 46 U.S. states against the industry forced manufacturers to admit that smoking is dangerous and addictive, and resulted in the release of millions of internal documents. Thousands of the documents showed that polonium had long been widely discussed in the tobacco industry
- Wanting to find a solution to the polonium problem, the industry debated the drawbacks and benefits of various ways to reduce polonium in cigarette smoke, among them adding materials to tobacco that would react with lead and polonium to prevent their transfer to smoke and developing a filter that would block polonium vapor
- Removal of Polonium would have no commercial advantage
- After the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed in June 2009, the American Cancer Society lauded it for requiring the tobacco industry to disclose the "poisons in its products"
- This legislation offers the first opportunity to challenge and force the tobacco industry to act on the results of their years study
- The World Health Organization has made clear that smoking is the most avoidable cause of death
In the world, people all around approximately smoke almost six trillion cigarettes a year, and each gives off a small amount of polonium 210 to the lungs. Although it isn't the main cause within the effects of cigarette smoking, it is still harmful leading to death. In June of 2009, the president had signed two acts into law: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law which would bring tobacco for the first time under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration which allowed the agency to regulate certain components of cigarettes. In order to make change for the future, as it forces the industry to finally remove polonium from cigarette smoke making them less deadly. Polonium collects within areas of the lung making it harmful for the airways branch as radioisotopes settle and concentrate at the points of bifurcation. The removal of Polonium will make a great difference in improving people’s live all over the world.
In my opinion, I believe that this is of the highest importance as we are aware that we are able to take out something from cigarettes to make them less deadly is a no-brainer. Taking out polonium from cigarettes will prevent many loss lives and help others conditions. We wouldn’t be able to prevent people to stop smoking cigarettes but we can help with making the ingredients less harmful to them. I believe that with the legislation acts getting passed, we are slowly getting closer to creating a better world for ourselves as we are taking in a lot of concern for what we do. Hopefully this will make us slowly start to stop using cigarettes getting rid of them forever from existence.