General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Why do tobacco companies use fertilizer that breaks down into radioactive polonium and lead?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9169points) August 4th, 2008

I know that these are also in soil, but is that due to the fertilizer that is being used?
Are there safer alternatives?
How come more people do not know this?
Are these fertilizers used in other countries?
Do all US tobacco companies use it?

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13 Answers

shilolo's avatar

@Chris. Could you provide more detail into your question (i.e. some links to reputable sources)? Where did you get this information and how is it verified? I think people would have an easier time answering if they had more background.

Lightlyseared's avatar

They probably feel that they can’t make their product any more dangerous so why not use cheap fertilizer.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

http://www.epa.gov/radtown/tobacco.html
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/143/3603/247
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/01/opinion/01proctor.html

A google search of polonium tobacco, brings up 65,000 hits.
@lightlyseared
In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

It increases Smoking Pleasure

Scrumpulator's avatar

I am going to go have a cigarette right now! is that not just disgusting!

shilolo's avatar

@Chris. Thanks for the links. After reading some of the primary papers in Science from 40 years ago, I am convinced that there is probably some merit to the idea that heavy smokers (1–2 packs per day) may ingest/inhale enough polonium to cause some damage and possibly contribute to the development of lung cancer.

I’m not in agriculture or environmental sciences, but I would speculate that this fertilizer is cheaper than the alternatives. It seems to me that on the one hand, tobacco companies want to avoid bad publicity (so don’t want to admit there is a problem), but no the other hand, might benefit by having smokers around longer if they switch fertilizers.

I would add however, that even if the fertilizer is changed, I believe that there would still be lung cancer, (and mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach and other cancers) and fertilizer/polonium has nothing to do with emphysema (another major killer) and heart disease (yet another major killer).

loser's avatar

Ew. Yet, here I am lighting up again…

Trance24's avatar

Probably because it is the cheapest fertilizer, and they obviously do not care about making a product horrible for your health. So why care if there are more bad things going into their product. As long as people are buying it I do not think they care. Most people would probably buy food with rat poison in it as long as it tasted good, and didn’t kill them immidietely.

buster's avatar

Do farmers use these fertilizers on our food supply?

loser's avatar

Probably…

stratman37's avatar

IDK, I’m hoping it’s apples to oranges for me, ‘cause I’m strictly a cigar man. No artificial nothing. And I’m told that the aging and fermentation process actually reduces the nicotine content.

Lightlyseared's avatar

it’s not the nicotine that’s kills you.

loser's avatar

No, it just addicts you!

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