Radioactive Particles in Tobacco

Tobacco is saturated with radiation.  Although Americans are just starting to learn about this information, it has been documented knowledge of tobacco companies since 1959. Products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco all contain radioactive particles. These radioactive materials are not just affecting tobacco users, but also individuals exposed to second-hand smoke.

 

How does Radioactive Material get into Tobacco?

Tobacco Leaf
The large, sticky surface of tobacco leaves allow radioactive particles to stick to them.

There are two ways in which tobacco becomes polluted with radiation. The first is from naturally occurring radiation particles from the Earth’s soil, which build-up on the sticky surfaces of tobacco leaves. Secondly, tobacco crops are sprayed with the phosphate fertilizer Apatite, which increases crop yields, but also contains lead-210, radium, and polonium-210. Polonium-210 emits alpha particules, while radium emits both gamma and alpha radiation. Furthermore, the half-life of lead-210 is 22.3 years, at which point it becomes highly unstable and begins breaking down. When smokers inhale these substances, the radium, lead-210, and polonium-210 are trapped in tar, which sticks to the bronchiolar tubes. For decades, these radioactive materials sit in the lungs, and break down healthy cells and tissues, eventually forming into cancer.

For decades, tobacco companies studied how these dangerous elements developed “cancerous growths” in the lungs, and calculated how much radiation a smoker would inhale over a 20 year period. Scientists, employed by tobacco companies, estimated that radiation in cigarettes would account for 138 deaths for every 1,000 smokers over a 25 year period. 

Even though tobacco companies knew of this crucial information for half of a century and the public is just starting to learn about radiation in tobacco products, it does not mean that it is too late to do anything about it- even if you have been smoking for decades!

 

What you can do to stop and limit your exposure to radiation in tobacco:

  1. Do Not Smoke or Chew Tobacco (obviously!)—Quitting right now will significantly reduce your exposure to radioactive particles that will cause cancer.
  2. Minimize Any Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke— Although most establishments have already banned smoking, some still exist. Refuse to eat, drink, or stay for a split second in these businesses so you are not unnecessarily exposed to any second-hand smoke. Also, if someone is smoking inside your home, make him/her go outside, or encourage them to quit and better their health.
  3. Use Zeolite Daily—If you’re a former smoker, a current smoker, or have just been exposed to second-hand smoke, take zeolite on a daily basis to rid your body of any radioactive materials that might have built up in your lungs. Remember, lead-210, polonium-210, and radium are all stuck in tar, which is stuck to the inside of your lungs. They are not going to come out unless they are pulled out by something. Zeolite can help pull these radioactive materials out of your body, and prevent them from doing damage to health cells and tissues.  

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