Smoking: Is Polonium the Villain?

One of the biggest mysteries in the relationship between cigarette smoking and the increase in lung cancer has always been: How does smoking actually cause the cancer? Last week two Harvard researchers suggested a possible explanation: radioactivity.

At the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Edward P. Radford Jr. and Dr. Vilma R. Hunt worked with polonium,* one of the rarest of the naturally occurring elements and until recently one of the hardest to detect. Many radioactive elements are found in tobacco leaves, as in all vegetation; they occur naturally and have nothing to do with man-made fallout, and they...

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