When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melted down in 1986, it spread radioactive fallout across a wide area. But a new study says that the amount of radioactive material left on plants by Chernobyl pales in comparison with the radium and polonium found naturally in tobacco, ITWire reported June 7.
Greek researcher Constantin Papastefanou found that tobacco plants contain up to 1,000 times more radioactive radium and polonium than the radioactive cesium fallout from Chernobyl left on plants. Polonium is considered one of the most deadly radioactive elements known to man, but is only harmful when inhaled or ingested.
“Many scientists believe that cancer deaths among smokers are due to the radioactive content of tobacco leaves and not to nicotine and tar,” according to Papastefanou, a researcher at the Atomic and Nuclear Physics Laboratory at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The study appears in the January 2007 issue of the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry.