Polonium-210 is a radioactive material that emits hazardous particles called alpha particles. Polonium's radioactive particles don't simply vanish when cigarette smoke blows away.
Dr. John Spangler, a professor of family medicine at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, said when smokers inhale, the radioactive particles damage the tissue on the surface of the lungs, creating "hot spots" of damage. When combined with other cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco, Spangler said the damage from radiation is potent.
"The two together greatly increase your risk of lung cancer," Spangler said. "So tobacco smoke is even more dangerous than you thought before." Spangler said smokers may not realize how long this radiation can linger in their homes. "Some of these radiation particles hang around for decades and decades," Spangler said. "You're emitting radiation when you smoke, and your family, your dog, your cat are all inhaling that radiation. How many smokers want to expose their child to radiation?"