Three Decades Later, German Mushrooms Still Contaminated by Chernobyl Radiation

© Photo : Courtesy of the Museum of MoscowParasol mushroom
Parasol mushroom - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.10.2021
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According to a German food safety regulator, those who may be tempted to rummage around Munich's countryside have been warned to avoid picking blueberries, cranberries, and certain fungi to reduce their exposure to elevated concentrations of the caesium-137 and caesium-134 isotopes bearing the characteristic signature of the Chernobyl blast.
As a result of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident, around 95% of wild mushroom samples collected in Germany are still highly contaminated with dangerous levels of radioactive material, the federal office for consumer protection and food safety (BVL) announced on Friday.
Scientists tested 74 samples and confirmed that none of them exceeded the legal limit of 600 becquerels of radiation per kg.
The contamination of mushrooms depends on both the caesium-137 level — an unstable isotope with a half-life of 30 years — near the mycelium and the special accumulation capacity of the respective mushroom species.
The Chernobyl reactor, located in what is now northern Ukraine, emitted nuclear waste into the atmosphere after an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction occurred, spreading a huge amount of airborne radioactive contamination across the continent and causing a spike in cancers in the immediate region.
To this day, the Ukrainian government is working on dismantling and decommissioning the power station.
Wild mushrooms are known to show contamination for much longer than other agricultural products. This is due to radioactive material that lingered in forests because their ecosystem recycled nutrients so efficiently, BVL said.
The long-term impact of the nuclear disaster caused widespread fear of nuclear power and strengthened anti-nuclear sentiments. A majority of Germans were concerned about the risks of the technology, triggering a decision shortly after the accident at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011 to abandon it altogether.
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