The American consumers of honey have undoubtedly swallowed nuclear residues without realizing it. In any case, this is what a study by geologist Jim Kaste of the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg (Virginia) tends to prove. The researcher and his team have indeed discovered that the honey of a large part of the eastern United States contains traces of cesium 137, a radioactive element, reports Business Insider, which relays work published on the scientific site ScienceAlert . Residues that come from the many nuclear tests carried out during the Cold War.
However, consumers can rest assured: there is no risk to human health, since nuclear residues are not high enough to be harmful. On the other hand, this discovery could make it possible to locate the “hot spots” of radioactive contamination of the ground and thus provide information on the long-term effects of nuclear fallout on the environment.
68 “contaminated” samples out of 122
It all started when Jim Kaste sent his students to measure nuclear radiation in foods like nuts or fruit. When the scientist tested a jar of honey from a North Carolina farmers market, his “detector went nuts,” he told ScienceAlert. He then found that many of the jars contained faint traces of cesium-137, an element created by the nuclear reaction of uranium and plutonium, which fuels atomic weapons. The explanation is simple: to make honey, the bees dissolve the nectar of the flowers in a liquid five times more concentrated. Contaminants washed up on plants undergo the same process. If the proportion of residues remains tiny (around 0.03 becquerel per kilogram of honey), Jim Kaste and his team identified 68 “contaminated” samples out of the 122 tested.
But one element particularly disturbed the researchers: most of the atomic bomb tests were carried out more than six decades ago. However, the average lifespan of cesium 137 is 30 years, which means that the radioactivity should have already dissipated. While this point has not yet been clarified, the study notes that the weather conditions on the east coast of the United States had contributed to the unusually high amount of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests. A much higher proportion, by way of comparison, than that of the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl or Fukushima.