Edward Martell

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Edward Martell was a scientist who published studies showing presence of radioactive materials in cigarette smoke. He published study in New England Journal of Medicine.

In 1974, Martell published a study in the scientific journal Nature that showed cigarette smoke contains radioactive polonium-210 and lead-210. Martell postulated that the alpha radiation emitted by these substances concentrates in the lungs of smokers and may be a contributor to lung cancer. The article caused quite a stir both inside and outside the tobacco industry. A 1974 Liggett memo acknowledges what Martell found--that radioactive polonium-210 and lead-210 are indeed present in cigarette smoke--and shows Liggett scientists planned to "counterbalance" Martell's information with "opposing opinions of equally reputable scientists..." The writer of the memo, Norman Vello, Liggett's Supervisor of Physical Chemistry, then discounts Martell's conclusions by saying Martell is after money or "laurels," and essentially admits that the company doesn't know just how damaging the radioactive polonium and lead in smoke are, that they still need to do research to find this out:

Researchers, particularly when in pursuit of research grant monies or some other laurels, have been known to occasionally overstate what is warranted by facts in order to enhance the merits of their own thing. As it stands, we shall have to delay objective judgment as to just how significant Po-210 [polonium-210] in smoke is until considerable additional research is completed.[1]


  1. Norman V, Liggett & Myers[ http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/qzl41e00 Comments on Recent News Releases Concerning Lead-210 and Polonium-210 in cigarette smoke] Memorandum, July 25, 1974. Bates No.81151933/1935

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