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    Po-210 easy to produce, can be found in food - ex-nuclear minister

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    Polonium-210, a highly toxic radioactive isotope widely believed to have been used to poison former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, can be manufactured even by a layman, a Russian former nuclear minister said Thursday.

    MOSCOW, November 30 (RIA Novosti) - Polonium-210, a highly toxic radioactive isotope widely believed to have been used to poison former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, can be manufactured even by a layman, a Russian former nuclear minister said Thursday.

    Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence defector and a close associate of fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died last Thursday in a London hospital. British health officials said Friday a large dose of Po-210 had been found in his body.

    "Polonium is not actively used anywhere," Yevgeny Adamov said. "However, it is not difficult to manufacture. It can be done even by a layman without a chemical background."

    He also said that traces of polonium can be found anywhere, even in food.

    "I dare say you could find polonium in a piece of bread, but in such concentrations it is not hazardous to health," Adamov said, adding that only direct contact with the radioactive metalloid or its vapors can be dangerous.

    Scotland Yard investigators have discovered traces of Po-210 radiation at six locations in the British capital that Litvinenko visited at around the time of his alleged poisoning at the beginning of November, including Berezovsky's office. They also discovered radioactive contamination on board the three British Airways Boeing-767 passenger aircraft being examined as part of investigations into the Litvinenko case.

    However, Adamov admitted that polonium-210 is highly toxic.

    "If it is added to food and enters the gullet, it subjects the body to continual radiation poisoning," the ex-minister said.

    Adamov, 67, is currently awaiting trial in Russia on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office during his tenure as Russia's nuclear power minister from 1998 to 2001.

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