Several planes are now the focus of a widened British probe into the fatal radiation poisoning of a former Russian spy. British Airways said “very low traces” of a radioactive substance have been found in two of its aircraft. Others are being tested. Britain’s interior minister, Home Secretary John Reid, told parliament the investigation was expanding. “Passenger details will be collected and the health protection agency will contact any individuals if any matters of concern are found. We will be contacting other governments where those planes I have mentioned may have landed in the interim”.
Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, died in a London hospital after being poisoned with radioactive polonium 210. Reid also said traces of the substance had been found at 12 out of 24 locations being checked by police. Hundreds of people are said to have contacted health services over fears they too may have been contaminated.
But experts say the risk is very low. Professor Alaister Hay said: “If somebody touched polonium, for example if they got it on their hand, the risk would be relatively small, because the radiation generally doesn’t go through the skin, the skin is an effective barrier.” The planes under scrutiny had travelled to Moscow. Reid said Russian authorities had promised to cooperate “at the highest level” in the ongoing investigation. The Kremlin has strongly denied any involvement in the killing.