Anorak News | What’s Your Poison?

What’s Your Poison?

by | 28th, November 2006

Alexander Litvinenko

WHEN the TV film of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko comes to be made it will surely be major boon for school science classes.

What secrets the former KGB officer held, why he was murdered and what his killer could hope to gain from his death are stories far less interesting to the press than what killed him.

Last week, we were introduced to thallium. This is a heavy metal and when eaten on a slice of sushi, imbibed in a tincture of green tea or smeared on a rice cracker will cause the Russian diner about town to fall ill.

“Thall-ium,” says the voiceover on TV’s Livinenko: Something Fishy. “Symbol: Tl. Source: from the Greek thallos, meaning "a green shoot or twig". Atomic number: 81. Colour: silvery white: Classification: Metallic. Dangerous: Yes.”

“History: In June 2004, 25 Russian soldiers became ill from thallium exposure when they found a can of mysterious white powder in a rubbish dump added it to tobacco, and used it as a substitute for talcum powder on their feet. Thallium.”

So much for that. And in module 2, the Sun introduces its readers to Plolonium-210, alongside the now familiar picture of Litvinenko lying fatally ill in a hospital.

Readers learn that Polonium-210 is “harmful when ingested into the body by breathing or swallowing it or through a wound”.

Readers might know it by its alernative name Radium F. It is more harmful that crack cocaine and crystal meth.

Anyone approached by a burly man in a thin black leather jacket or a woman wearing heavy blue eyeshadow and a club boot offering white powders and other exotica should politely decline and tell the authorities.

You, along with three others who fear they have been contaminated by Polonium-210, will then be tested for the radioactive toxin.

The Mail says three people thought to have “had contact” with the sushi bar or London hotel Litvinenko visited on the day of his poisoning are being checked.

But we must not panic. Home Secretary John Reid tells us: “If anyone fears on rational grounds for their own safety then I would ask them to get in touch with the authorities.”

Helpfully, the Mail tells readers what to look out for. Symptoms of possible poisoning include: chest pains, headaches, anaemia, vomiting, diarrhoea and shortness of breath.

Of course, it might not be Polonium-210 lying at the root of your condition. It might be a form of barium. Thallium. Or alcohol…

Posted: 28th, November 2006 | In: Tabloids Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink