Radioactive cigarettes

OK, being in charge of radition safety in my lab (Gawd help us all), I was doing research on radiation in general when the web turned up this tidbit:

A two-pack a day smoker encounters 1300 millirem a year more than a nonsmoker due to the presence of polonium-210 in cigarettes.

Why is polonium in cigarettes? I’m assuming it’s a by-product of manufacturing, since it’s very rare as a natural element. One site listes these uses of polonium:

  • Mixed or alloyed with beryllium to provide a source of neutrons
  • Used for eliminating static charges in textile mills
  • Used on brushes for removing dust from photographic films
  • Thermoelectric power in space satellites

Anyone know for a fact what the polonium is there for? I mean I can handle tar gluing up my lungs and free radicals blasting apart my proteins but I gotta worry about alpha particles too now?

Oh yeah, check out this site for more motivation to quit smoking:

Oh, never mind. The next site I looked at told me:


So I got it covered, here. Go about your business.