Suspected radioactive contamination: Evaluation of 45 Israeli citizens potentially exposed to polonium-210 in London

Tal Brosh-Nissimov, Ofra Havkin, Nadav Davidovitch, Lion Poles, Chen Shapira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The lethal piosoning of Alexander Litvinenco with the radioactive element polonium-210, and the risk that may 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 210Po, a natural alpha radiation-emitting element. A task team was created to handle the event. The team comprised representative from the Ministry of Health's advisory committee for radiological events (which includes the Israel Defense of Environment 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 210Po 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-orgenizational 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-103
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Contamination
  • Epidemiology
  • Polonium
  • Public health
  • Radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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