Is Cigarette Smoke Radioactive?

Everyone know that cigarettes contain harmful ingredients. According to the American Lung Association there are over 7000 known chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of the more savory include: arsenic, lead, acetone, and tar, but it appears now what you are inhaling in cigarette smoke may be downright radioactive.

There are approximately 53 million smokers, adults and teens in the United States alone, meaning the number of people exposed to radioactive smoke is staggering beyond belief. But even with all the scary ingredients in cigarettes, hearing they have the potential to contain radioactive material should really make a smoker take notice.

Depending upon fertilizer and soil conditions, the tobacco that is sitting on your store shelf may contain radioactive material. The tobacco leaves used in many different brands of cigarettes contain lead-210 and polonium-210.

Soils that contain a higher concentration of radium leads to high radon gas exposure to the growing tobacco crop. Radon gas will decay into a series of solid, highly radioactive metals. These metals particles attach to dust in the air which then lands on the sticky tobacco leaves. The sticky substance that that emanated from the tobacco plant is not water soluble, meaning the rain will not wash the sticky, now radioactive, material. Lead-210 and Polonium-210 are therefore present in the harvested tobacco and eventually the cigarettes and the smoke that goes into your lungs and the atmosphere. In high concentration radium soil the radon can also be absorbed into tobacco directly through the roots and leaves.

Phosphate fertilizers are very popular in the tobacco industry and they contain both radium and its decay products (including lead-210 and polonium-210). When phosphate fertilizer is spread on tobacco fields year after year, the concentration of lead-210 and polonium-210 in the soil will get higher and higher.

While most cigarettes contain only small amounts of radioactivity, even that is truly enough to change your thinking on cigarette  smoking. Researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency believe that the radioactive particles lodge in lung tissue and over a period of time contribute a much larger radiation dose. The radioactivity level is key, and quite possibly the cause of lung cancer among cigarette smokers.

According to the Center for Disease Control, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, with 480,000 deaths each year. Of these, 123,000 lung cancer deaths per year are cause from smoking cigarettes, likely due to their radioactive attributes.

As the smoke passes through the lungs, the smoke effects the branches of the lung passages. Tar from the tobacco smoke can build up in these passages, or bronchioles, and traps the radioactive material in the sensitive lung tissue of the bronchioles. Cigarette filters on ordinary commercial cigarette remove only a small amount of the radioactive material from the smoke inhaled by the user. The lungs get a heavy dose of lead-210, however, over time the polonium-210 will expand and grow and being the faster-decaying substance will become the dominant radon gas. The amount lead-210 and polonium-201 is of course, depending on the level of radon in the soil, but with phosphate fertilizers being the norm, hundreds upon thousands, possibly millions, of tobacco harvest will likely include radioactive materials.

What is worse, it is not just smokers that are in danger. Secondhand smoke has also been shown to be a significant health risk, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

There are so many health risks associated with cigarettes and so many chemicals that go into your body. There are so many ingredients that people who smoke have stopped paying attention to all of them,  but radioactivity is one thing people need to stand up and pay attention to. While there aren’t definitive studies linking the radioactive material to lung cancer, the experts are making the logical conclusions that there is a correlation, perhaps even a causation, between the two.

As a comparison, e-cigarettes and their vapor are a far cry from anything even close to radioactive. With no smoke, and especially no tar to trap potentially harmful particles, the vapor that comes from an e-cigarette stands to be leaps and bounds healthier for you than traditional cigarette smoke, with no radon gas in sight.

The American Cancer Society clearly states that “Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer.” After cigarette smoking, they claim that radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the US, however with radon gas in the cigarette smoke as well, it may become harder to tell the two causes apart. On top of everything else bad with cigarettes, radio activity could just be the most important reason for a smoker to try to change their habits today.

Many people have found success by switching to e-cigarettes. Simply by lowering, or eliminating their exposure to traditional cigarette smoke their contact with radioactive material can be completely stopped. As a smoker, you sometimes try to forget about all the bad things you are putting in your body when you puff, but radioactive exposure is not something anyone should ignore. To the strongholds who still aren’t sure about switching to e-cigs, please, let the radioactive content in cigarettes convince you to find a healthier alternative today.



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