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Since it was used by the Martians as an energy source for both their machines and weapons (such as the freeze and heat ray guns), a supply of radium was required by the Avatar to make use of Martian technology. The high levels of radioactivity in radium make it poisonous and potentially lethal -- a fact proved by the fate of Marie Curie, who likely died of leukemia (post-Martian Dreams) because of her careless handling of the substance. To avoid a similar demise, the Avatar had to carry radium in lead boxes and manipulate it only with the help of tongs.