An international team of researchers from Greenpeace and the University of Exeter have identified dangerous levels of radioactive elements in crops in the "exclusion zone". They suggest that the ash used for fertilizers is to blame.
Crops growing next to the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant are still contaminated by radiation from the 1986 accident.
In a new study, researchers found that wheat, rye, oats and barley grown in the area contain two radioactive isotopes - strontium-90 and cesium-137 - that are above safe levels.
Comment: “ Our findings point to the ongoing pollution and exposure of people. This process is complicated by the lack of official monitoring by the authorities , "said study author David Santillo , a forensic environmental expert at Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter. He referred to the fact that the Government of Ukraine suspended its program of monitoring radioactive elements in 2013.
Researchers, in collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology, analyzed 116 grain samples collected in 2011-2019 from the Ivankiv district of Ukraine - about 50 km south of the former nuclear power plant.
This area is outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, with a radius of 48 km around the NPP. Radioactive isotopes were found in 48% of the samples, mainly strontium-90, which exceeded the safe level. They also found that in wood samples taken in the same region between 2015 and 2019, strontium-90 levels exceeded the safe limit - they cannot be used even as firewood.
Researchers believe that radiation in wood may be the cause of ongoing radioactive contamination of crops almost 35 years after the disaster. When analyzing wood ash from stoves, they found strontium-90 levels 25 times the safe range. Locals use this ash, as well as the ash of the local thermal power plant to fertilize crops. This process continues the cycle of radiation through the soil.