Daily Doc: PM, Apr 2, 1980: Radioactive Cigarettes ">

Daily Doc: Radioactive Cigarettes

Title: Newscript: Radioactive Cigarettes
PM, Apr 2, 1980
Bates #: 2012611337/1338

June 3, 2000

This confidential Philip Morris (PM) memorandum from 1980 reveals that PM knew that smoke from their cigarettes contained radioactive lead and polonium, and that it was derived from the uranium in the calcium phosphate fertilizers that were regularly used on tobacco-growing soils. As the writer of this memo states most straightforwardly,
"210-Pb [radioactive lead] and 210-Po [radioactive polonium] are present in tobacco and smoke...."
They also knew that switching to another fertilizer could probably help the situation. Here's what they had to say about that:
"..using ammonium phosphate instead of calcium phosphate as fertilizer is probably a valid but expensive point...."

Title: Newscript: Radioactive Cigarettes
Type of Document: confidential memorandum
Author Comes, R.A. - Philip Morris Tobacco Co. Recipient: Osdene, T.S. - Philip Morris Tobacco Co.
Date: 19800402
Site: Philip Morris document site http://www.pmdocs.com/
Page Count 2
Bates No. 2012611337/1338
URL: http://www.pmdocs.com/getallimg.asp?DOCID=2012611337/1338

That phosphate fertilizer contains natural radioactivity is a well established fact. Natural uranium accumulates in the phosphate rock...Uranium and its daughters are thus carried through the mining and manufacturing process and appear in the commercial product [the fertilizer used on tobacco plants]. Soils to which these products are applied show an increase in radioactivity over that naturally present and this increase is a function of the rate of application and the number of years that the fertilizers have been used....Thus, the smaller particles [of the fertilizer] which would be more likely to be made airborne by normal farming practices, would be expected to settle out on the tobacco leaves during the growing season and/or be more readily taken up by the plant root system.

210-Pb [radioactive lead] and 210-Po [radioactive polonium] are present in tobacco and smoke....For alpha particles from 210-Po to be the cause of lung cancers is unlikely due to the amount of radioactivity of a particular energy necessary for induction. Evidence to date, however, does not allow one to state that this is an impossibility.

The recommendation of using ammonium phosphate instead of calcium phosphate as fertilizer is probably a valid but expensive point....

...The soluble 210-Po is that which one would expect to be cleared by normal physiological processes...A study carried out by us has shown an increase in the soluble 210-Po with time after harvest....

[underlining emphasis added]

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Anne Landman, Regional Program Coordinator
American Lung Association of Colorado, West Region Office
Grand Junction, CO
(970) 245-2120
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