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Home News centre National Press Releases 2006 Press Releases ›  Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation

Update on public health issues related to Polonium-210 investigation

4 December 2006

The Health Protection Agency is continuing to provide expert advice on the public health issues surrounding the death of Mr. Alexander Litvinenko.

On the basis of the monitoring results received so far the Health Protection Agency can reassure members of the public that the risk of having been exposed to polonium-210 remains low . It can only represent a radiation hazard if it is taken into the body - by breathing it in, by taking it into the mouth, or if it gets into a wound. It is not a radiological hazard as long as it remains outside the body. Most traces of it can be eliminated through hand-washing, or washing machine and dishwasher cycles for clothes, plates etc.

It is important to remember that very small amounts of Polonium-210 occur naturally within the environment, in the air we breathe and the food we eat. It is also present in cigarettes. Everybody has low levels of Polonium-210 in their bodies which are not harmful to health and any extra exposure does not automatically mean the individual concerned will suffer any long-term health effects.

 

Test results update

  •  Of the urine samples tested so far by the Agency 99 found nothing of concern. The Agency will be contacting these people to inform them of their results

  • The only urine sample that the Agency has examined that has shown higher levels of Polonium-210 (Po-210), relates to an adult member of Mr Litvinenko's family . These levels are not significant enough to result in any illness in the short term and the results are reassuring in that any increased risk in the long term is likely to be very small

 

Location update

  • Best Western Hotel, Shaftesbury Avenue , London - monitoring completed. No findings of concern for public health

  • Parkes Hotel, Beaufort Gardens and 1 Cavendish Place , W1G - t he Agency has been informed of these addresses as part of the police investigation. The Agency will monitor all locations identified by the police as part of their investigations to assess whether there is any public health risk

 

General update

Small quantities of radioactive material (Polonium-210) were initially found in a small number of areas at three locations in London . The Agency is also aware of other venues where police have been continuing their investigations and where traces of contamination have been confirmed. The Agency will monitor all locations identified by the police as part of their investigations to assess whether there is any public health risk.

The Agency's public health follow-up has included testing urine samples from those in close contact with Mr. Litvinenko, those who worked or were present in the affected areas and, where appropriate, those who called for advice via NHS Direct.

 

  • As of midnight Sun, Dec 3 NHS Direct had received 3,063 calls since HPA advice was issued on Sat Nov 25;

  • Of those, as of 10am Sun, Dec 3, the HPA had followed up 179 people who it was assessed should be investigated further;

  • The total number of people - as of midnight Sun 3 Dec - referred as a precaution to a specialist outpatient assessment clinic for possible radiological exposure assessment is 27 (25 from NHS Direct, and 2 via other routes);

  • As a precaution 71 healthcare staff have been asked to provide urine samples for testing as of 11am today (Mon, Dec 4)

 

The police investigation continues. We will provide further public information as appropriate.

Notes to Editors:

1. The HPA advice is that anyone who was in the Itsu restaurant, or who was in The Pine Bar or the restaurant of the Millennium Hotel on 1 November should contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 where they will be given advice on what to do.

2. If you are an overseas visitor and were in the Itsu restaurant, or The Pine Bar or the restaurant of the Millennium Hotel on 1 November you should email the Health Protection Agency for advice: overseasadvice@hpa.org.uk. If you do not have access to email you can contact NHS Direct on 00 (44) 845 4647 but only via a mobile telephone if you are calling from abroad. (If this does not connect you please try 0845 46 47 instead - again only from a mobile)

3. Further information is available on www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk and www.hpa.org.uk

4. Media enquiries to HPA London press office on 020 7759 2824 or 020 7759 2834 or HPA CRCE press office on 01235 822 678 or 01235 822 744. If you are calling out of hours please use 020 8200 4400.

Last reviewed: 30 December 2008