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Radioactive Cigarette Smoke


Updated April 08, 2013

Radioactive Cigarette Smoke
© Stockxpert

What Lead-210 and Polonium-210 Are:

Lead-210 (Pb-210) and polonium-210 (Po-210) are poisonous, radioactive heavy metals that research has shown to be present in tobacco smoke.

Where Lead-210 and Polonium-210 Come From:

When uranium, an ore that occurs in small amounts in nature, breaks down, radium is released as radon gas into the atmosphere. Once that occurs, radon gas decays quickly, producing lead-210 (Pb-210) and polonium-210 (Po-210), highly radioactive metals (known as radon decay products). Radium is also present in phosphate fertilizers that are often used in tobacco farming.

How Lead-210 and Polonium-210 Get Into Tobacco:

As the radium in soil around tobacco plants releases radon gas, and ultimately, the tiny lead and polonium particles float free, they attach to bits of dust and are carried to the surface of tobacco leaves. And because tobacco leaves are covered with thousands of fine hairs, these radioactive chemicals grab hold and stay put -- from the field all of the way to the smoker's lungs.


Lead-210 and polonium-210 are insoluble in water, so they are not removed during the cleaning and cigarette manufacturing process.

What Happens When a Smoker Inhales Radioactive Metals:

As a smoker breathes in cigarette smoke, lead-210 and polonium-210 "stick" to the cigarette tar that collects at the junctions of air passages within the lungs called bronchioles. Studies have shown that lead-210 and polonium-210 build up at these locations within smoker's lungs and over time produce radioactive hot spots.

Health Risks Associated with Lead-210 and Polonium-210:

Inhaling lead-210 and polonium-210 increases the risk for lung cancer. In fact, because the build up of radiation a person receives over many years of smoking can be huge, researchers feel that lead-210 and polonium-210 in cigarette smoke are significant factors for lung cancer in smokers.

The Bottom Line:

Lead-210 and polonium-210 are toxic, radioactive heavy metals that are present in inhaled cigarette smoke. They build up over time in delicate lung tissue and are a key risk factor for lung cancer. Further, these toxins are just two of the hundreds of poisonous and/or carcinogenic chemicals present in cigarette smoke. Smoking offers you nothing other than disease and ultimately -- death.

Quit smoking now.

More on the Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke:

To date, scientists have discovered more than 7,000 chemicals, including 250 poisonous and 70 carcinogenic compounds in cigarettes / cigarette smoke.

Resources to Help You Quit Smoking:

Learn what you can expect when you quit smoking and how to minimize the discomforts associated with nicotine withdrawal. The links below will help you get started.


Polonium Factsheet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tobacco Smoke - Radiation Protection. Accessed 11 March, 2009. Environmental Protection Agency

Lead-210 in Tobacco and Cigarette Smoke September, 1967. PubMed Central - National Institutes of Health.

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