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Swedes to be tested for polonium

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12:37 CET+01:00
Three Swedes who stayed at the Millennium Hotel in London are to be tested for radioactive poison polonium 210, the poison that killed the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Seven Swedes have been identified by British authorities as having been potentially exposed to the radioactive material. They either stayed at the hotel during their London visit or were seen in the hotel bar.

The Swedes have now been contacted by the National Board of Health and Welfare, Socialstyrelsen.

“We want to examine those who either stayed close to the hotel room that was contaminated or those who were seen at the hotel's bar,” said Jonas Holst, emergency preparedness coordinator at the Socialstyrelsen.

According to an initial assessment by Socialstyrelsen, four of the seven Swedes are not in the risk zone while the other three have been sent to radiation medicine experts.

The trio has given blood and urine samples, the results of which will be ready in a few days. Holst described the risk that the Swedes have ingested polonium 210 as minimal.

Polonium 210 is a rare radioactive metalloid element that occurs in uranium ores. It has been has been used in experiments as a source of heat to power thermoelectric generators, spacecrafts and in nuclear weapons.

Polonium can only enter the body by ingestion or through inhalation through the mouth.

Holst said that he was "not expecting" any of the Swedes to have been poisoned by the polonium. But, he said, the Swedish health services were well prepared to treat any possible cases of radiation poisoning.

"There are different remedies which bind the elements and increase secretion of the poison through urine or faeces. We have good access to those kinds of remedies,” Says Holst.

Litvinenko became ill on November 1st and died November 23rd in London. Police say he was deliberately poisoned using polonium. During the investigation, traces of the radioactive element were found in different parts of London. Litvinenko blamed the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for poisoning him.

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