Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2015. Vol. 60. No. 3. P. 50-57


V.V. Uyba1, K.V. Kotenko2, L.A. Ilyin2, Yu.E. Kvacheva2, Yu.V. Abramov2, I.A. Galstyan2, A.K. Guskova2, B.A. Kukhta2, N.M. Nadezhina2, V.A. Stebelkov3, A.G. Tsovyanov2, S.M. Shinkarev2, V.N. Iatsenko2

Polonium-210 Version of Arafat’s Death: the Results of Russian Investigation

1. Federal Medical-Biological Agency, Moscow, Russia; 2. State Research Center - Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Center of Federal Medical Biological Agency, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; 3. Laboratory for microparticle analysis, Moscow, Russia


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to present the results of research carried out by the Russian specialists to answer the question as to the evidence of Yasser Arafat’s death being caused by radiation exposure to polonium.

Material and methods: This research was conducted in two directions simultaneously: medical and physical. As part of medical research a task was set to have a detailed analysis of photocopies of the patient’s medical records to compare with the materials of our own observations of accidental polonium injuries. As part of physical research it was essential to solve the problem of determining the content of 210Po, 210Pb and a number of other radionuclides in the samples recovered during the exhumation (a total of more than 20 biological and other objects). All possible methods of the direct determination of 210Po and 210Pb content in the remains of the deceased were used, including research of samples using radiochemical separation of 210Po followed by alpha spectrometry measurements and spectrometric measurements of 210Po and 210Pb using low background gamma spectrometric systems. Indirect methods were also applied including mass spectrometry and spectrometric studies to determine the content of a number of stable chemical elements and of radionuclides.

Results: No objective evidence of the patient’s symptoms of radiation damage as typical of that in the case of intake of 210Po has been established. Meanwhile, an increased activity of 210Po and 210Pb in the range from 10 to 100 times higher than its background level was revealed on Arafat’s tissue specimens exhumed. Within the error of experimental research the activities of 210Po and 210Pb in the analyzed biological samples of bones and internal organs detritus match, indicating the radioactive equilibrium state. Consequently, the source of high 210Po content in the remains of the deceased is 210Pb. The calculations made based on the results of the research suggest that the amount of 210Pb found in the remains in May and June 2013 corresponds to about 650 Bq in the patient’s body in November 2004 (this is a restored activity given the half-life of 210Pb equals to 22.3 years). Intake of such a quantity of 210Pb results in radiation doses only at the level of mGy fractions of the absorbed dose in individual organs over a period of 30 days after intake. Obviously, such doses could not have caused any radiation induced health problems of the patient. Moreover, the content of a similar 210Pb amount in the body could not have caused the lead chemical poisoning because the detected 210Pb weight amounts corresponding to 650 Bq activity are within the nanogram fraction.

Conclusion: Thus, on the basis of summarizing the complex research results, taking into account the absence of any objective evidence proving the presence of symptoms of acute radiation syndrome in the submitted medical records, and given the results of measurements of 210Pb and 210Po contents in the samples of biological materials taken during exhumation of the remains as well as evaluation of the radiation dose, a direct causal link between the presence of high content of these radionuclides in the remains of the deceased and his death should be excluded.

Key words: Yasser Arafat, polonium-210, lead-210, radiation syndrome, exhumation


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For citation: Uyba VV, Kotenko KV, Ilyin LA, Kvacheva YuE, Abramov YuV, Galstyan IA, Guskova AK, Kukhta BA, Nadezhina NM, Stebelkov VА, Tsovyanov AG, Shinkarev SM, Iatsenko VN. Polonium-210 Version of Arafat’s Death: the Results of Russian Investigation. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2015;60(3):50-7.

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