Nuclear weapons tests are blamed for radioactive pigs in Germany and Austria
- It was previously assumed the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster was to blame
- Researchers have now attributed contaminated pigs to nuclear weapons testing
Nuclear weapons tests are to blame for radioactive wild boar in Germany and Austria, a new study has found.
It was previously assumed that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 was to blame for the radioactive pigs, but researchers from Austria’s Vienna University of Technology have now attributed the contaminated pigs to nuclear weapons testing.
The testing of weapons took place in the decades following The Second World War, but soil in the areas where the boars roam in the forests of Germany and Austria is still contaminated.
It is estimated that over two million wild boar roam Germany and Austria, frequently wreaking havoc on the local wildlife, destroying crops and causing thousands of car accidents each year across central Europe.
But the pigs are largely protected from hunters due to their radioactivity, causing them to be unsafe for human consumption.
Nuclear weapons tests are to blame for radioactive wild boar in Germany and Austria, a new study has found (file image)
Until recently, it was assumed that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster was to blame for the high caesium (chemical element Cs) levels in the animals.
If the radioactive levels were because of the 1986 powerplant disaster, researchers said, the caesium levels would have diminished significantly by now.
In the study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Researchers pinned the specific reasoning for the radioactive pigs on the discovery that the pigs would have tested positive for radioactive element caesium-137 if Chernobyl was to blame.
Instead they found that the animals were rich in caesium-135 – a radioactive element far more common in nuclear weapons than power plants.
‘The team observed that 88 per cent of the 48 meat samples exceeded German regulatory limits for radioactive cesium in food,’ the report said.
‘For the samples with elevated levels, the researchers calculated the ratios of cesium-135 to cesium-137, and found that nuclear weapons testing supplied between 10 and 68 per cent of the contamination.’
The team concluded that nuclear weapons testing after the Second World War was ‘an underappreciated source of radioactive cesium to German soil’ and thus affected the pigs.
It is estimated that over two million wild boar roam Germany and Austria, frequently wreaking havoc on the local wildlife, destroying crops and causing thousands of car accidents each year across central Europe (file image)
The team also blamed the phenomenon on underground mushrooms and deer truffles.
The fungi are eaten almost exclusively by the wild boar and not by any other animals.
The nuclear ceasium creaked slowly through the soil and eventually reached the truffles, explaining the reason for the time delay in contaminating the pigs, the researchers said.
‘Contamination from both sources have been taken up by the wild boars’ food, such as underground truffles, contributing to their persistent radioactivity,’ the team said.
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