What Is Polonium 204 in ‘Kate’?


Netflix’s new action film Kate has an adrenaline-pumping premise. Imagine an unstoppable assassin who realizes she’s been poisoned and only has 24 hours to live. Her goal: to kill the person responsible. It turns out, getting revenge isn’t as easy as she thinks.

Kate is the streaming service’s most recent woman-led action film, hot on the heels of the star-studded Gunpowder Milkshake, starring Karen Gillan, Paul Giamatti, Lena Heady, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and others. This time, the incredibly talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate, alongside her mentor Varrick (played by Woody Harrelson). During Kate’s odyssey, she also picks up Ani (Miki Martneau), a young girl who she believes can get her to her killer.

But before the gunslinging, intense fight scenes, and harrowing path to redemption, there’s the poisoning. Early on in the film, Kate is secretly given a deadly dose of polonium-204, and as a doctor explains, she only has one night to settle her affairs. To stave off the effects of the poison, she takes stimulants (five to be exact) to keep going through the night. Seeing as most people don’t come across Polonium-204 every day, the poison is sure to raise a few eyebrows.

Viewers see that Kate received the dose through glasses of wine the night before. There are other hints to what the poison throughout the film, like a discarded radiation outfit in the hospital and Kate’s increasingly reddening skin. But still, there’s not much information to go off of. Keep scrolling to find out what Polonium-204 really is, and if there’s even a cure.


What Is Polonium-204 in Kate?

Discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, polonium is a highly radioactive material naturally occurring in the world. According to the CDC, the element is only a hazard when ingested or introduced to an open wound. Outside the body, it’s not transmittable, hence why Kate is able to fist-fight her way through Tokyo without risk of exposing the whole city.

Men’s Health

Like any other radioactive material, if taken at significant dosage over a long period of time, there’s an increased risk of cancer. Taken at extremely high dosage in a short amount of time (like Kate), it probably means death through radiation exposure.

The EPA says high exposure to radiation can cause skin burns and acute radiation sickness (ARS), which is what Kate’s doctor at the beginning of the film says she has. ARS results in skin burns, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and hair loss in addition to other not very fun symptoms. Apparently, exposure at that level is like taking at least 18,000 x-rays. Yikes.

Is there a cure for Polonium-204?

Technically, yes. The CDC says the lower the level of ARS, the better chance of recovery. A major concern is damage to the bone marrow. Death is often caused from the bone marrow breaking down, resulting in infections, and internal bleeding. Treatment focuses on “reducing and treating infections, maintaining hydration, and treating injuries and burns. Some patients may benefit from treatments that help the bone marrow recover its function.”

So maybe maybe Kate could have survived? Although considering her prognosis, it sounds like she had a high enough dose treatment would have been useless. RIP.

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