12. Chernobyl's radioactive contamination of food and people

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Nov:1181:289-302. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04837.x.

Abstract

In many European countries levels of I-131, Cs-134/137, Sr-90, and other radionuclides in milk, dairy products, vegetables, grains, meat, and fish increased drastically (sometimes as much as 1,000-fold) immediately after the catastrophe. Up until 1991 the United States imported food products with measurable amounts of Chernobyl radioactive contamination, mostly from Turkey, Italy, Austria, West Germany, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Sweden, and Denmark. These products included juices, cheeses, pasta, mushrooms, hazelnuts, sage, figs, tea, thyme, juniper, caraway seeds, and apricots. In Gomel, Mogilev, and Brest provinces in Belarus 7-8% of milk and 13-16% of other food products from small farms exceeded permissible levels of Cs-137, even as recently as 2005-2007. As of 2000, up to 90% of the wild berries and mushrooms exceeded permissible levels of Cs-137 in Rovno and Zhytomir provinces, Ukraine. Owing to weight and metabolic differences, a child's radiation exposure is 3-5 times higher than that of an adult on the same diet. From 1995 to 2007, up to 90% of the children from heavily contaminated territories of Belarus had levels of Cs-137 accumulation higher than 15-20 Bq/kg, with maximum levels of up to 7,300 Bq/kg in Narovlya District, Gomel Province. Average levels of incorporated Cs-137 and Sr-90 in the heavily contaminated territories of Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia did not decline, but rather increased from 1991 to 2005. Given that more than 90% of the current radiation fallout is due to Cs-137, with a half-life of about 30 years, we know that the contaminated areas will be dangerously radioactive for roughly the next three centuries.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Food Contamination, Radioactive*
  • Humans
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiation Monitoring
  • Whole-Body Counting