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Day 66: Radioactive Thallium Poisoning? November 21, 2006

Posted by Admin in Chemistry, Science in the News, Test.

After taking the second Chemistry test today (we’re all done with Chemistry!) we briefly discussed a fascinating news story about a former Russian spy who some believe may have been poisoned by radioactive thallium (Element #81: Tl). The article can be read online: Dissidents Say Poisoning of Russian Ex-Spy Linked to his Kremlin Critisism:

LONDON — A former Russian spy poisoned in Britain and now hospitalized under guard may have been targeted for his criticism of former colleagues and his investigation into the killing of a prominent anti-Kremlin journalist, friends and fellow dissidents said Sunday.

Since we’ve been discussing radioactivity a great deal lately, the symptoms the doctors have found should sound familiar:

A doctor treating Litvinenko told the British Broadcasting Corp. that tests showed he was the victim of poisoning by He’s got a prospect of recovering, he has a prospect of dying,” said Dr. John Henry, a clinical toxicologist who treated Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004 after he was poisoned during his presidential election campaign. Henry said thallium can cause damage to the nervous system and organ failure, and that just one gram can be lethal.

Radioactive thallium has a relatively short half-life, so doctors are not positive about the diagnosis. They say they won’t be able to detect any traces of Thallium in the victims bloodstream because it has already decayed.



1. Darmok - November 26, 2006

Interesting idea for a blog—came across surfing posts categorized as chemistry. Anyway, as you’ve probably already seen, it now appears that the poison was polonium-210, which has a much longer half-life and was found in his bloodstream. Still pretty much the same mechanism, though. (I discussed it briefly in a blog entry of my own).

2. kait - September 23, 2007

Does anyone know what kinda of radioactive thallium posioned nikolai khokhlov? do we know if its thallium200 or 201 or anything??? please help, college assig!

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