Quantum and Nuclear

Nuclear cigarettes

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 16-19 IOP RESOURCES

In addition to its many other hazards, cigarette smoke can contain polonium-210. Levels of polonium vary between different brands of tobacco but the presence of this isotope occurs through the decay of two isotopes – radium present in the soil and lead in phosphate fertilisers.

In addition to radioactive contaminants, smoking can cause irradiative harm in another way. In smoke-free environments, the naturally occurring radioactive gas radon, and the daughter nuclei produced by its decay, adhere to walls and furniture through the action of electrostatic forces. When an aerosol such as cigarette smoke is present in a radon-rich environment, radon’s decay products can attach to smoke particles and are more likely to be inhaled than in smoke-free conditions. Radon decay product concentration has been found to double in indoor environments when cigarette smoke is present.



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