(February 10, 2014) It’s well-recognized that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer. What isn’t clear is exactly what it is in the cigarette or its smoke that causes it. Interestingly, while it may seem obvious that added chemicals would be prime culprits, research suggests it may be something else entirely.
This “something else” in turn could also have potential ramifications for our food supply, and might be an indicator of potential carcinogenicity in genetically engineered foods as well as tobacco, although there’s no evidence of such a link as of yet.
The factor I’m talking about is polonium-210—a highly radioactive element1 that releases alpha particles as it decays. It’s also chemically toxic.2 While alpha particles cannot penetrate deeply into your body, they can cause serious damage to cells they do come into contact with.
While naturally present in small amounts in the environment, one of the primary sources of exposure is via calcium phosphate fertilizers, used on tobacco fields and food crops respectively.