Jan 04 2007

More On Litvinenko Polonium Trail

I decided to go back and review all the Health Protection Agency (HPA) notices that have come out since Litvinenko’s death and the realization he was poisoned by Polonium 210 to see what other details may have been hidden in these announcements. I was not dissappointed. In fact I suggest you read to the end, because the bits of new evidence culminate in an interesting statement regarding Litvinenko.

The more interesting announcements address questions and concerns from the public. The pattern of the trail is pretty clear: poisoning at any level (i.e., Polonium 210 in the body) seems to be at locations where the material was exposed to the air – not from bodily excretions. In fact, the risk from bodily excretions seems quite low. Here is one indication from HPA on why this is the case:

I live in the same household as someone who has a urine sample result showing elevated Polonium -210 levels. What is the risk to my health?

Normal social and household contact with people who may have elevated Polonium-210 levels in their urine are not a risk to others if good hygiene practices are followed. Only a tiny amount of Polonium -210 is excreted in body fluids and even then you would only be at risk of harm if you ingested it.

Does sweat contain Polonium-210 and if so how much?

Yes, but at very low levels similar to or less than other body fluids. It is typically 10 times less than those found in urine.

So first the Polonium needs to be sweated out in serious quantities, and then the material still needs to somehow be ingested or inhaled for poisoning. And in fact we see this in all the cases, with the possible exception of Marina Litvinenko. They all show very low contamination levels. But since Marina was dealing with a violently ill husband for a day or more it is not a surprising that she would be the exception.

Another indication to the form of the Po-210 that was trailed was this HPA statement:

How might I be affected by the Polonium-210 involved in this incident?

On the basis of the monitoring results received so far from a range of sites we believe that the risk to the general public of having been exposed to Po-210 is likely to be very low.

If Po-210 is present in the environment, it would need to enter people’s bodies to give them a radiation dose, again through ingestion, inhalation or through wound entry. Any people who may have inadvertently ingested or inhaled Po-210 will not present a hazard to other people nearby

Is it safe to travel on public transport in London?

On the basis of the monitoring results received so far from a number of locations in London as part of the on-going Po-210 investigations, the Health Protection Agency can reassure members of the public that the risk of having been exposed to Po-210 remains low. In the limited public areas where contamination has been found, this has been in small spots, where it is fixed and not easily transferred to hands or clothes.

So there was little dispersion in the public areas. My guess is other areas show a different pattern, and we can guess which places those may be. But it seem we are seeing a ‘spot’ of contamination in a form that doesn’t rub off easily onto hands or clothes. Was this because these spots were on the ground and simply not something easily made contact with? Or was this because the Po-210 was in a patch left over from a dried liquid salt solution? My guess is it may be a combination of the two. But the point is the heavy poisonings and contaminations seem to come in very unique circumstances – and basically behind closed doors.

Here is another indication of how limited the transmission of Po-210 is across the human organism when ingested or inhaled:

Can I continue to breastfeed?

The likelihood of significant transfer of Po-210 to the baby from the mother from exposure to contamination is very small and until proved otherwise normal breastfeeding should continue.

This tells me the Po-210 doesn’t disperse in the body as much as people thought it did. It seems to stay localized in the intestinal tract and the respiratory system – in the doses seen in the majority of people contaminated. It would seem Po-210 is not dangerous unless it is in a massive dose – which would again counter the assassination theory. Massive doses are expensive, dangerous to handle and transport, and increase the odds of detection.

Here is a fascinating snippet on how the authorities detected the Po-210 trail:

The two-person teams, drawn from experienced HPA radiation protection staff and specialist contractors, have checked public areas in buildings and vehicles at the invitation of the police or local authority.

Monitoring for alpha radiation is a thorough and methodical operation. This form of radiation is only detectable within a few centimetres of a given contaminated surface and the monitoring device typically has a sensitive area of only 10 by 10 cm. Monitoring teams therefore meticulously scan a room for hours at a time, slowly moving the monitor over the surface under examination and keeping it steady at a constant distance of about one cm above the surface.

The teams operate in pairs so that one member can monitor, and the other can check and record readings, and check their partner for any contamination.

Clearly this stuff is not easy to detect, except when in large quantities. The detection process gives a highly detailed topology of the Po-210 contamination and dosage, which allows for mapping a person’s activities – even within a room. What is intriguing in all of this is the Scaramella and Itsu Sushi contamination. The restuarant had hot spots, but not a single person from the restaurant was infected. And it seems the contamination on the planes was some of the least contaminated and very focused – again like from a drop of liquid (from the previous link on questions from the public):

The HPA has surveyed a number of planes on which people of interest to the police had travelled. Results of the monitoring carried out on these planes have been risk assessed – taking a precautionary approach to potential impact on public health.

Some remediation has been carried out for patches of activity found on planes, but levels have been appreciably lower than those found in many of the other venues. The levels of Po-210 found in the planes were not sufficient to have caused a public health concern for passengers, flight crew, cleaners or engineers that had been in these planes over recent weeks. If they had been exposed then the highest doses would only have been comparable to normal background radiation.

So these locations are not exposure sites, they are points on a trail. An exposure site seems to show dispersion and may be were the serious poisonings took place. Interestingly enough Berezovsky’s offices were also found to have sufficient levels of Po-210 to notify people in and around the offices to be checked out:

7 Down Street – Small areas of contamination were found and the HPA has recommended that these be remediated. Visitors and staff to the affected areas have been contacted and tested if necessary. In the public areas, no risk to public health has been found.

That makes it equal to the sushi restaurant and the hotels in terms of concern and dealing with innocent bystanders. I find it still surprising Berezovsky apparently refused testing for Po-210. We also have one more piece to this puzzle. It comes from some recent reporting regarding the latest low level poisonings announced. It concerns the number of people in the Pine Bar on Nov 1 and how many are showing up contaminated:

A member of the public who visited the bar where the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned has tested positive for polonium-210, the Health Protection Agency revealed yesterday.

The person was one of about 250 who drank in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair, on November 1, the day Mr Litvinenko received a fatal dose of the radioactive element.

This would seem to say that the Pine Bar did not see a form of Po-210 that was able to disperse widely and contaminate or poison many people. And it may be the bar was not, in fact, were Litvinenko was exosed. Only one customer showing signs of contamination? In fact it would suggest just the opposite. Why would bar staff be contaminated and not patrons? The tea cup and the dishwasher of course. The bar staff are in the kitchen in the back, and if the dish washer was the source of Po-210 laced steam then it would make sense. The cup doesn’t necessarily make the site of contamination the bar. It only makes it the site of dispersion – apparently limited to the kitchen area.

The real question is when was the Pine Bar contaminated? One thing is for sure, the HPA is contacting people that were at the Millenium from Oct 31st (when Lugovoi arrived with his family) to November 2nd. So it seems the contamination could have been as early as Oct 31st. Was Litvinenko there the first day Lugovoi arrived? Very possibly.

Now putting this all back together again we have the three hotels with known dates that coincide with meetings between Lugovoi and Litvinenko and mutiple rooms of contamination:

(1) Millenium Hotel Room (Oct 30-Nov 3 Period)
(2) Sheraton Hotel Room (Oct 25-28 Period)
(3) Parkes Hotel in Knightsbridge (Oct 16-18 Period)

It would seem from the reporting here that the fourth hotel, the Shaftesbury Best Western, is coincidental with one of these trips. From one of the earlier links we find this very interesting tidbit:

A member of staff at the Best Western Hotel in Piccadilly, believed to be where one of Mr Litvinenko’s associates stayed, has also shown signs of exposure to polonium-210, the agency said, bringing the total number of people contaminated with radioactivity to 12.

I find it interesting that this last hotel is linked to a never-before-mentioned associate of Litvinenko’s. Not an associate of Lugovoi’s or Kovtun’s. An associate of Litvinenko’s. With two rooms found contaminated. But we do not know which time frame the contamination is linked to! Was it one of the earlier rounds of supposed smuggling of Po-210? Was it any of these? The time frames above are purely associated with Lugovoi trips to London to meet Litvinenko and the fact hotel rooms associated with Lugovoi and people who travelled with him showed up contaminated. The Shaftesbury is the one hotel which seems to break this pattern.

We have a new person and a new hotel to fold into our calculations. Clearly the material is not being dispersed widely in transport. But it does seem to take flight when it is in hotel rooms and is possible being handled outside the containment of what is used to transport it. Certain locations showed more than a spot of trail, they showed serious contamination. The most important is a 4th floor hotel room in the Millenium Hotel, and apparently the Pine Bar kitchen (not the bar area itself). But even staff who are exposed to the locations are showing very low poisoning. So how do we explain Litvinenko and Kovtun? Clearly they were present when the material was “out of the bag” and more free to disperse. Is this pattern seen in more than one hotel? Is it seen in Berezovsky’s office or the security companies visited by Litvinenko and Lugovoi? And who is this mysterious new associate of Litvinenko’s with the contaminated hotel rooms?

28 responses so far

28 Responses to “More On Litvinenko Polonium Trail”

  1. AJStrata says:

    Honestly, I don’t know how you would even handle a microscopic fraction of a grain of salt. How would you know it went into the tea instead of stuck to the container? The salt is the only way to deliver the poison since the Po atoms are embedded in a crystalline structure if in solid form or suspended in a liquid. You cannot handle a particle of metal you cannot physically see!

  2. crosspatch says:

    Exactly, AJ, which is why I believe that if it was the metallic form that killed him, that it was ingested accidently having been shed from a shirt cuff or sleeve into food. That would go completely unnoticed and if he was contaminated as apparently the other were (maybe after dropping the polonium on the floor and cleaning it back up?) then it would be a simple matter to become contaminated on a shirt sleeve from a hug or even brushing against another’s sleeve and having a particle drop off into food or drink.

  3. crosspatch says:

    Or … my original theory …

    The others involved realized they had become contaminated and were afraid. They intentionally dosed Litvinenko with a massive dose so that they could seek treatment themselves. They probably didn’t believe the trail would be discovered and they thought they could cover their contamination by being near Litvinenko the day he became ill and saying they must have been contaminated at the same time.

    So Boris points the finger at Putin was part of the smokescreen. We are supposed to believe that the Russians killed Litvinenko with polonium. This is so that the others involved in the smuggling operation can claim co-lateral contamination and get treatment. It would also explain why Litvinenko was given such a huge dose. It was vital for Litvinenko to A: get sick quickly so the others could seek treatment and B: have a larger dose than the others to make the co-lateral contamination story believable.

    The trouble with fiction is that it has to make sense.

  4. Gotta Know says:

    Very intriguing theory CP but I don’t think these guys have the sophistication to believe they were poisoned by PO and needed treatment. (Is there treatment?) It seems to me that all this contamination was accidental. If they did kill Litvinenko–which, it should be noted, is entirely possible and doesn’t at all deter from the smuggling thesis–I would guess it was for other reasons.

    And I would still say on balance that Litvinenko’s death was an accident. He seemed fairly reliable as far as smugglers go, needed money, and would not likely do anything to upset his benefactor, Berezovsky.

  5. Gotta Know says:

    And we have to deal with the Russian elephant in the room, Berezovsky: What was he up to? If we can determine that, or at least identify a short list of likely scenarios, it may tie up a bunch of loose ends.

  6. crosspatch says:

    In my scenario, I would have Berezovsky tossing Litvinenko under a bus to save Lugovoi who would probably be much more useful for him in the future than Litvinenko.

    As for “is there treatment” … to some extent. You could use certain treatments to reduce the amount of polonium in the body and can treat other symptoms as they arise. Being in isolation when one has a depressed immune system would be helpful.

  7. crosspatch says:

    But perhaps Boris would toss Litvinenko under a bus to cover a polonium smuggling operation. If they knew they were contaminated and it was only a matter of time before they fell ill, they would need some way to “cover” the fact otherwise people are going to wonder how they got polonium poisoning. In that scenario, Litvinenko is the sacrificial lamb.

  8. Barbara says:

    I don’t think these guys knew how dangerous this stuff was. They probably had been told a piece of tissue paper would stop its effects. And if there was a spill they would be more interested in getting the stuff back into the container and did not think or indeed even know how dangerous it was. After all, it represented a lot of money. If it was in metallic form it moved. I read where if a jar of metallic polonium was left opened in the lab the next morning the polonium would be all over the lab because the polonium atom would hop on to dust motes and go where the dust motes carried it. Do you know if this is true, Crosspatch?

    I still think some of polonium landed on Litvinenko’s face or hands and he licked his lips or his fingers or something similiar. It could even have stuck in the crevices of his knuckles if it was so small as to unseen. He had to be closer to the source than the others because their sicknesses were much later than Litvinenko’s and evidently they did not get as large a dose.