The study discovered that radioactive contamination in these animals is not exclusively due to the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
A group of researchers from the Technical University of Vienna (Austria) and the University of Hannover (Germany) published a study last Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in which they determined that the cause of the high levels of radioactive contamination in the wild boars that inhabit the German region of Bavaria it is not only due to the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The study analyzed tissue samples from 48 wild boars from that region, obtained between 2019 and 2021, which contained high levels of the radioactive isotope cesium-137. They were between 370 and 15,000 becquerels per kilogram, that is, up to 25 times above the legal limit of 600 berequels, allowed by the European Union for the consumption of animal meat.
The Bavarian region, in the southeast of Germany, has strong radioactive contamination. Until now, this had been mainly attributed to the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. However, scientists discovered that nuclear weapons tests carried out between 1950 and 1963, in the context of the Cold War, They also contributed significantly to the high levels of radioactivity.
Although almost all the samples showed a mixture between the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl and those from nuclear weapons, most of the radioactive contamination came from the latter, representing up to 68% of cesium-137 found in wild boars. In some cases, radioactive cesium came only from nuclear weapons.
Why are wild boars more radioactive?
In recent decades, traces of the radioactive isotope have decreased significantly in all animals except wild boars. This phenomenon, called ‘the wild boar paradox’, is due to the consumption of deer trufflesan underground mushroom preferred by wild boars.
Scientists believe that radioactive cesium from nuclear tests It has sunk into the ground and contaminated the mushrooms, which is why radiation levels in these animals have persisted. Furthermore, it is likely that Bavarian wild boars will continue to have high levels of radioactivity in the future, as cesium from Chernobyl will also continue to leach into the soil and contaminate truffles.
The study claims that this demonstrates that, once released, radioactive cesium remains in the environment for generations and immediately affects food security. This element has a half-life of 30 years, which means that there is still 25% of that agent left, while from Chernobyl there should still be around 42% left.