12 November 2013

Swiss Report on Arafat's Death

Having finally read the report, here are a few brief non-technical "blogging" thoughts...

The objective of the report wasn't to determine the cause of death.  This report was written to prove that Arafat was killed using a source of Po-210.  It was commissioned by Al-Jazeera, which is more than apparent from its content (I am not a fan of good ol' Jazeera, but quite frankly any scientist working for any TV company would make me cringe).   Two examples of the blatant bias:

Example 1.  It is claimed that although there was elevated concentration of Radon (Rn-222), in Arafat's grave, the quantity wasn't enough to explain even higher concentrations of Polonium 210 (Po-210) and Lead 210 (Pb-210) in some of the samples (the last two radionuclides are formed when radon decays). 

Given that radon is a gas, I would expect concentrations to drop significantly as soon as the grave is opened.  Po-210 and Pb-210 are not gaseous; they would stay in the soil.   I am surprised that the authors of the Swiss report were "surprised" by this particular finding. 

Example 2.  Lack of the well known symptoms of radiation sickness in the case of Yassir Arafat is quite striking.  For example he has not lost any facial hair, he has not had low blood cell counts, etc... 

This fact is impossible to ignore, but the report tries to explain it away but claiming that the symptoms were not present because Arafat ingested radioactivity rather than was subjected to external irradiation.

Can I say NONSENSE?  The dose is a dose, whether you get it externally, via inhalation or ingestion.  That's the whole point of calculating dose.   It's basic physics: internal or external gamma, alpha, beta... radiation cause the same effect given that the dose is the same - that's 100 years worth of Radiation Protection science for you. Given a large enough dose, one gets radiation sickness . If one were to assume that Po-210 in the samples came from Arafat he got a whack of a dose, enough to kill an elephant.

If you still don't believe me, have a look at the photos of Arafat and Litvinenko a few days before their respective deaths.