Can you buy Polonium 210?

10 December 2006

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Question

On last week's show you were talking about polonium 210 being difficult to obtain but in fact anyone can buy it easily. In the US there's a product sold for neutralising static on lenses and laboratory equipment. By using Polonium 210 to can irradiate surfaces and allow static charge to disperse. It's called Static Master and I think it's been on the market for a very long time. They cost $30 a piece, I've also tracked down a vendor in the UK. Is it common knowledge that you can get hold of this so easily?

Answer

Despite this, it is still difficult to obtain. See http://www.unitednuclear.com/isotopes.htm for a full explanation. Basically, you'd need to spend millions on thousands of units, and then purify it all, before coming up with a decent amount. Frankly, its be easier to do same with americium from smoke alarms … Aside from the brushes, most polonium used in devices is electroplated on to a metal base – and that like saying that silver-coated steel forks are a good source of silver. They're not, because you have to melt the stuff down and go through a complicated separation procedure to get it away from the steel once its been electroplated.

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