Glowing in the dark

Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with Polonium-210

That’s the headline of this Guardian piece.

Yasser Arafat was poisoned with Polonium-210.

That’s the headline that people will think they saw.

There are many problems with the suggestion that Arafat and Polonium-210 came together, without his permission, as it were.

First, the half-life of Polonium-210 is 138 days. What does that mean? The level of radiation (amount) reduces by half every 138 days. The bad terrorist boss died in November 2004.  That makes it over 8 years from death to time of testing, or 21+ half-lives. To put it another way, in that time the radiation would fall to less than one millionth of what it was. The levels being reported as present in 2012 (when tested) could only be explained if he were almost literally glowing with the stuff. It does not stack up.

Second, the medical reports say (or said…) that Arafat’s symptoms were not those of radiation poisoning.

So, ignoring the issues like a chain of custody for the samples – which is a mess upon mess – the facts do not support the theory of such poisoning. But since conspiracy theories  need nothing but a willing audience – especially since Israel’s being fingered for it – do not expect this one to wither and die. (Or fade away…)



There’s been a flurry of media activity recently about the death of Yasser Arafat. They are going to dig him up to do some tests. Or not. His widow is going to raise a court action in France. Or not. He was poisoned. Or Not. And so on, and so on.

In many of these stories, apart from the inevitable blame being given to Israel, the detail that stands out is the alleged use of polonium. I bet if you did a survey now, people would tell you – as a fact – that Yasser Arafat died from polonium poisoning. (It’s a given who they will blame.)  And the evidence for this? Absolutely nothing. ‘But‘, I hear you exclaim, ‘what about all the polonium they found? Where did it come from? Explain that away.

Ok. I will.

Just see here, from which the following quote is taken:

The half-life of polonium is about 135 days, meaning that each year, there’s about 1/8 as much as a year prior, or 2**(-3). Over 8 years, this would work out to 2**(-24), meaning that of 32 million polonium atoms, one would be left. Try finding that one atom in Arafat’s stained boxers.

In a nutshell, it’s impossible, given current scientific standards, to measure what polonium might have existed in somebody (or their effects) 8 years ago (when Arafat died). Any polonium around now must have been more recently, er, introduced. Someone is, to use the vernacular, at it, and the whole episode is a bucket full of baloney.

A big thank you to Israellycool and Brian of London for confirmation of my suspicions.

What chance do you think there is of any mass media desire to solve the other Arafat mystery: what happened to all the money?