Cesium, iodine, and strontium are naturally occurring elements. Like dozens of other elements in nature, they are not radioactive. Not usually.
But every nuclear reactor mass-produces radioactive versions of these normally stable elements. And so we have radioactive caesium (caesium-137), radioactive iodine (iodine-131), radioactive strontium (strontium-90), and literally hundreds of other human-made radioactive elements, never before encountered by living things prior to mankind’s harnessing of nuclear energy — to produce atomic weapons and to fuel nuclear reactors.
When radioactive materials are spewed into the environment by fallout from nuclear explosions and nuclear meltdowns, they enter into the biosphere. They contaminate the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Many of these unstable atoms become incorporated into the innermost parts of our bodies.
Radioactve materials are dangerous to any nearby living cells. Some of the radiation-damaged cells develop into cancerous growths years later. Damages reproductive cells can lead to damaged offspring. Thus radioactive iodine, like regular iodine, goes to the thyroid gland, where it causes thyroid disorders including thyroid cancer. Radioactive strontium, like regular strontium, resembles calcium and is stored in the skeleton where it causes bone cancers and blood diseases including leukaemia. Radioactive cesium, like regular caesium, is chemically similar to potassium which has an affinity for the blood and soft tissues. So radioactive caesium tends to concentrate in the meaty parts of animals.
Pigs use their snouts to dig up and eat underground mushrooms, especially truffles and false truffles, which are rich in potassium. These plants are avid collectors of caesium along with potassium, and when the caesium is radioactive, the mushrooms become concentrated radioactive food for the pigs. Thus the bodies of wild boars become highly contaminated with radioactivity, to the point where their meat is unfit for human consumption. In Germany, the government has for many years paid cash to hunters who kill wild boars, to compensate them for the fact that they cannot eat the meat.
All because of the Chernobyl nuclear accident more than three decades ago. The same effects could result from a leaking radioactive waste repository.
31 years after Chernobyl
Half of all wild boars in southwest Czech Republic are still radioactive
Associated Press, via Business Insider, January 17, 2017
PRAGUE (AP) — An agency in the Czech Republic says about a half of all wild boars in the country’s southwest are radioactive and considered unsafe for consumption due to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The State Veterinary Administration said Tuesday that radioactive boars still roam the Sumava mountain range on the Czech border with Germany.
It says the animals remain contaminated nearly 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster because they feed on an underground mushroom that absorbs radioactivity from the soil.
The nuclear reactor’s explosion sent a radioactive cloud over Europe.
Cesium, the key radioactive material released, has a half-life of some 30 years. It can build up in the body, and high levels are thought to be a risk.
Similar problems with radioactive wild animals were reported in Austria and Germany.
Caught On Video:
Radioactive Wild Boar Roam Fukushima
By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, March 10, 2017
With humans long gone, and robots dying off amid the radiation, Fukushima has become home to ‘something else’. When the exclusion zone was set up almost exactly 6 years ago this week – with the surrounding towns population evacuated to a safe distance – The Mirror reports that hundreds of wild boars, which have been known to attack people when enraged, descended from surrounding hills and forests into the deserted streets.
Now they roam the empty streets and overgrown garden’s of Japan’s deserted seaside town of Namie, foraging for food. However, the people of Namie are scheduled to return to the town at the end of the month, which means the bloody-toothed interlopers have to be cleared.
“It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars,” said Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town.
“If we don’t get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable.”
Reuters reports that more than half of Namie’s former 21,500 residents have decided not to return and face the wild boars, however, a government survey showed last year, citing concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being decommissioned.
Wild boar meat is a delicacy in northern Japan, but animals slaughtered since the disaster are too contaminated to eat. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some of the boars have shown levels of radioactive element caesium-137 that are 300 times higher than safety standards.
Authorities in the town of Tomioka say they’ve killed 800 so far, but officials there say that’s not enough, according to Japanese media. The latest statistics show that in the three years since 2011, the number of boars killed in hunts has grown to 13,000 from 3,000. But at town meetings earlier this year to prepare for the homecoming, residents had voiced worries about the wild boars. “I’m sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie. “Something must be done.”