Suspected radioactive contamination: Evaluation of 45 Israeli citizens potentially exposed to polonlum-210 in London Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The lethal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenco with the radioactive element polonium-210, and the risk that many civilians (including Israeli citizens) who were in the same location in London at the same time were exposed to radiation, was an unprecedented event in the western world. This was only the second known death due to 210 Po, a natural alpha radiation-emitting element. Atask team was created to handle the event. The team comprised representatives from the Ministry of Health's advisory committee for radiological events (which includes the Israel Defense Force, the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Environmental Protection), the Public Health Services Central District, and a public relations expert. Forty-seven people were located and underwent an epidemiological inquiry, and urine samples for detection of 210 Po were sent abroad to a specialized laboratory. The radiotoxicological results were analyzed and evaluated by the expert team and follow-up recommendations were made. This unfamiliar and potentially stressful scenario was handled successfully by a multi-organizational multidisciplinary task team. The joint work of the task team was a real-life "exercise" simulating a radiological event in Israel. This team has recommended further evaluation of various vital missions in the event of any possible future radiological event, with special emphasis on a proactive communication approach to the media and the public.

publication date

  • January 1, 2008