Nuclear weapons are partly responsible for radioactive wild boars

You read that correctly. A team of scientists tested the meat of wild boars from southern Germany, and found that the radioactivity in the pigs stemmed from nuclear weapons tests, not from Chernobyl power plant disaster in 1986.

The Chernobyl disaster was caused by the collapse of a power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, which released a massive amount of radiation into the surrounding atmosphere. The radiation contaminated the surrounding forests and farmland Organisms from livestock to humans. The radioactivity caused by the disaster spread as far west as France, and many farm animals were born in the affected areas. deformities in the following years.

Enters Radioactive pigs in Bavaria. Although not livestock, wild boars (sus scrofa) were affected by Chernobyl radiation, which led scientists to conclude that animals She was tainted by this event alone. But new research published in Environmental science and technology He points out that nuclear weapons testing is a contributing factor, although it is not possible to say which country or group was responsible.

“There is a huge updraft after the explosion; “By the time the debris falls to Earth, the radioactive material will have been evenly distributed in the upper atmosphere,” Steinhauser said. “So, it is almost impossible to attribute the repercussions to a specific test or country.”

Most of the radioactive cesium floating around Europe is cesium-137, but some of it is the long-lived isotope cesium-135. They both result from nuclear fission, the same thing The process used to produce Both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. (Not to be confused with nuclear fission and fusion, the process that powers the sun, and some thermonuclear weapons, which Scientists have sought for a long time K Ridiculously abundant power source if harnessed properly.)

The piglets were spotted by the team's hunting collaborator.

The piglets were spotted by the team’s hunting collaborator.
picture: Joachim Redman

Cesium-137 levels generally decreased across Europe, but not in hairy-tusked pigs in southern Germany. “It is this unique feature that gave rise to the term ‘wild boar paradox’.” Steinhauser said. “They are the only animal with a distinct appetite for deer truffles. It must be an underground source, otherwise Chernobyl would be the dominant source of cesium.”

While the radioactivity of other animals declined, the pigs maintained their numbers due to their truffle-heavy diet. These buried underground truffles act as a “downward-migrating” repository for cesium-137, the researchers wrote.

The research team measured pork samples collected from southern Germany using a mass spectrometer. They found that levels of radioactive cesium in meat indicated that 10% to 68% of animal contamination was due to nuclear weapons testing, not nuclear reactors. 88% of the 48 samples tested were above the regulatory limit for radioactivity in Germany, and all samples were above the regulatory limit in Japan.

“88% of the 48 samples are not representative of the population because we asked the fisherman to get us as many contaminated samples as possible,” Steinhauser said. “Many hunters know (from what we’ve learned) exactly that a particular hog ‘from this part of the woods at this time of year’ will be over the limit.”

Steinhauser added that the diet of pigs determines their radioactivity throughout the year. In winter, when food is scarce and animals dig for deer truffles (elaphomyces), will be more radiant than when food is abundant in summer or fall. So, as long as you stay away from pigs in your diet, there is no reason why their radioactive diet should affect you.

More: Study finds that radioactive fallout from the Trinity nuclear test affected 46 US states

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