Polonium 210 traces found on three British Airways aircraft

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Library picture of BA Boeing 767

Traces of the radioactive substance, Polonium-210 have been found on two British Airways planes. The airline was alerted late Tuesday evening by the UK government that three of its planes were of interest in the investigation into the death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko from radiation poisoning.

Two planes are located at the Heathrow Airport in the UK, and one at the Russian Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow.

The two Heathrow planes were forensically examined Wednesday and the presence of traces of a radioactive substance were confirmed. A British team consisting of what are thought to be police experts is leaving for Russia to test the third plane, according to the BBC.

The public health risk that passengers on the planes under investigation have been poisoned is very low. Up to 33,000 passengers are being urged to contact BA, NHS or their doctor if they have travelled on the 221 European flights which travelled all over Europe, including Russia as far back as "the end of October". Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA, said: "I am advised that the health risk is actually very low." 3,000 staff will also be checked out.

The Home Secretary John Reid is expected to make a statement to Parliament concerning the ongoing investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko on Thursday.

All three planes are Boeing 767s used for short haul flight which were taken out of service when the government contacted BA on Tuesday night.

Traces of Polonium-210 have been found at other places that Mr Litvinenko visited in London, Britain.

Pat Troop, chief executive of Health Protection Agency, said: "What we have heard is that it's either traces or very low levels and what we have learnt so far in our investigation... is that where we have got these areas of low level radiation it doesn't seem to pose a significant health threat."

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