February 26, 2021

Cereal crops near Chernobyl remain contaminated


Archive image of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Archive image of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Yuri Kozyrev

The cereal crops growing near Chernobyl but outside the exclusion zone they are still contaminated due to the 1986 nuclear accident, new research shows. The scientists analyzed cereals such as wheat, rye, oats and barley and found concentrations of radioactive isotopes (strontium 90 and cesium 137) above Ukraine’s official safety limits in almost half of the samples.

The researchers also examined wood samples and found that three-quarters contained strontium-90 concentrations above the Ukrainian limits for fuelwood. The study was conducted by the University of Exeter and the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology.

“We focus on strontium 90 because it is currently known to be present in soil mainly in a bioavailable form, which means that can be absorbed by plants“Lead author Dr Iryna Labunska of Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter said in a statement.” Ukraine’s government oversight of products containing strontium 90 ended in 2013, but our study clearly shows that this must continue. People should be aware of constant contamination of soil and plants, and should be advised on agricultural methods and safer remediation. “We found very high levels of strontium 90 in the wood ash; however, many people still use the ash from their fires as fertilizer for crops “.

Co-author David Santillo, also from Greenpeace Research Laboratories, added: “Our findings point to the ongoing human exposure and contamination, aggravated by the lack of official routine monitoring. “This research also highlights the potential for radiation from Chernobyl to spread more widely again as more and more wood is used for power generation in the region.”

The study analyzed 116 grain samples collected during 2011-19 of fields in 13 settlements in the Ivankiv district of Ukraine, some 50 km south of the power plant and outside its ‘no-go zone’. Wood samples, primarily pine, were collected from 12 locations in the same district during 2015-19. In an earlier study, researchers found that milk in parts of Ukraine had radioactivity levels up to five times the country’s official safe limit.

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