Up to 33,000 British Airways passengers may have radioactive contamination

Two British Airways planes are to undergo further detailed examination after traces of a radioactive substance were discovered on board.

The traces of a nuclear material believed to be polonium-210 were found on BA aircraft used on the London-to-Moscow route. A third aircraft was grounded in Moscow last night while tests were carried out to see if it is also contaminated.

It is understood that Scotland Yard ordered tests to be performed on the planes as part of its investigation into the movements of individuals who were in London around the time Mr Litvinenko fell ill on 1 November.

Up to 800 people were on board the planes during the four flights under investigation between 25 October and 3 November, and a further 30,000 passengers and 3,000 staff are estimated to have travelled on the 221 flights the aircraft made before being grounded, the Independent reports.

Up to 33,000 British Airways passengers are being told to seek immediate medical advice after the investigation into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko uncovered traces of radiation on two commercial planes.

Following forensic tests, three B767 short-haul aircraft used on routes across Europe were taken out of service. A spokesman for the firm said the planes were being examined because "individuals involved in the Litvinenko case" had travelled on them.

Significant amounts of radioactive polonium 210 were found in his body. The 43-year-old became ill on 1 November.

From his deathbed, Mr Litvinenko insisted he had been poisoned by the Russian security services but the Kremlin has dismissed such claims as "nonsense". However, all three of the planes had been on the London-Moscow route.

BA is now attempting to track down passengers who used the three planes on more than 220 flights. The company described the risk to passengers as "low" but recommended anyone on board the flights to contact NHS Direct, NHS 24 or their GP for medical advice. The alert also involves around 3,000 staff, scotsman.com reports.

One of the two Russians who had drinks with Alexander Litvinenko on the day the ex-security service agent fell mortally ill has said he was on one of the British Airways aircraft being tested for radiation.

KGB veteran turned businessman Andrei Lugovoi told Kommersant that he flew from London to Moscow on one of the “contaminated” aircraft on November 3.

The British Airways aircraft that flew from London Heathrow to Moscow on November 3 is one of those listed on the company’s web site as being involved in the investigation into Litvinenko’s death.

Lugovoi told the newspaper that he had nothing to do with the alleged radiation poisoning of Litvinenko, noting that traces of radiation could be found on anyone who came into contact with the victim.

Lugovoi told Moscow Echo radio station last week that he and a colleague drank gin at a central London hotel with Litvinenko on November 1, the day he is believed to have been poisoned.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov