Why are German pigs heavily contaminated with radioactive materials?

Wild boars in southeastern Germany are contaminated with large amounts of radioactive cesium, and this has been widely attributed to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. While the level of radioactivity in other animals has decreased, these substances are mysteriously present in the bodies of wild boars. This strange situation is known as the “wild boar paradox”.

to report Science AlertA new research shows that nuclear tests from the middle of the 20th century are also responsible for the contamination of pigs. According to scientists, both sources contaminate pigs through their diet.

Wild tusks look healthy; But the dangerous levels of radioactive cesium found in some of them have reduced the hunting of these animals to provide the meat needed by humans and fueled the problem of population increase.

Felix Stager“Beyond the measurement of total protozoan isotopes, our study provides deep insight into the notorious radiocesium contamination of Bavarian wild boars,” a radioecologist at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, and colleagues write in their paper.

Radioactive materials released into the environment after a nuclear accident or explosion are a great threat to the ecosystem. After the Chernobyl accident 37 years ago, the level of radioactive cesium contamination (especially cesium-137, which has a half-life of about 30 years) increased; But the much more stable isotope cesium-135 has a half-life of over 2 million years and can be created through nuclear fission.

According to previous research, the ratio of cesium-135 to cesium-137 can determine where the existing cesium came from. A high ratio indicates a nuclear explosion; While a small proportion of nuclear reactors are introduced as a possible source of cesium.

The research team analyzed the meat of animals hunted from eleven different regions of Bavaria between 2019 and 2021 to investigate the level of cesium in boars in the region. To measure the activity of cesium-137, the researchers used a very high purity gamma ray detector. Advanced mass spectrometry was also used to compare the amount of cesium-135 with cesium-137. The level of radioactive cesium in 88% of the meat samples tested was higher than the German legal threshold.

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