In yet another controversy involving big tobacco companies that have been plagued by a recent string of scandals
, a team of researchers have uncovered evidence among internal tobacco industry documents that reveal a sick truth. Tobacco companies were aware that cigarette smoke contained harmful radioactive particles as early as 1959, yet chose not to inform the public and even fought to keep it a secret.
These secret documents were made publicly available in 1998 as the result of a legal settlement and have been a useful tool in exposing the unethical practices that tobacco companies embrace.
While it is common knowledge cigarette tobacco had harmful carcinogenic chemicals that increased the risk of developing lung disease or cancer
, the documents explain that smoke emitted from lit cigarettes contain an even worse isotope called polonium-210. Polonium-210 gives off alpha particle radiation that poses a bigger threat to lungs. These radioactive particles have been shown to cause malignant growths inside the lungs of smokers.
Polonium-210 is a naturally occurring element that can be found in the air, soil, water and in some plants, and virtually all cigarettes from every major commercial and foreign company contain it. The earliest link between alpha particles and cancer can be traced back to the early 1920's, when alpha particle radium paint was used to paint luminescent letters and numbers on street clocks, watch dials, window signs and more. The painters would put the brush into their mouths and form a point on it. This would enable them to paint more accurately and add detail. Because of this, the painters accumulated large amounts of radioactive alpha particles from accidentally ingesting some of the paint, and many of them eventually developed some type of jaw or mouth cancer.
Ever since the tobacco companies knew of this hazard around 1960, they began investigating polonium-210 and ways to prevent it from making its way into cigarette smoke. Strangely enough, even though they discovered quite a few ways to omit it from tobacco, they decided not to go through with any of it. When asked why they chose not to take care of the problem, the tobacco companies stated that the method of cleaning out the chemical called "acid washing," might be "too costly and dangerous for the environment".
The eye-opening study was conducted by a team of researchers from UCLA, and was published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research
. This unsettling discovery shouldn't be a surprise to public health researchers, the tobacco companies are saying. They claim that polonium-210 has been widely known to cause cancer for quite some time now, and that the tobacco industry did not go out of their way to keep this under wraps.
Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is that these companies are willfully keeping all of these potentially hazardous chemicals in their products simply because it will provide a more powerful nicotine rush and thus keep smokers coming back for more