Central Europe’s wild pigs are radioactive thanks to nuclear weapons testing

Wild pigs of Central Europe are radioactive thanks to nuclear testing after the WW2
Wild pigs of Central Europe are radioactive thanks to nuclear testing after the WW2. Image: MikeB

NEWS AND VIEWS: Remarkably, Europe’s wild boars in the Forest of Germany and Austria are so radioactive that they can’t be eaten and they can’t be hunted. They are protected by their radioactivity. So where did this radioactivity come from?

Well, researchers from the Vienna University of Technology have concluded that they are radioactive because of nuclear arms testing after World War II and in the 1960s. This implies that nuclear testing thousands of miles away from Europe has contaminated the soil in Europe which then contaminated truffles within the soil which, in turn, were eaten by the wild boar who then become contaminated themselves.

That’s the remarkable chain of events which has led to this extraordinary situation whereby Europe’s wild boar are highly contaminated with cesium-135; a different radioactive element compared to cesium-137 which was emitted from the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in 1986. Cesium-135 is linked to nuclear arms testing whereas cesium-137 is linked to the Chernobyl disaster.

The researchers believed initially that the pigs were contaminated with radioactive material because of the Chernobyl disaster but they discovered it was a different type of cesium and therefore concluded that the mid-20th-century weapons tests caused the contamination and that they were an “underappreciated source of radioactive cesium to German soil, which was also unevenly impacted by the Chernobyl accident.” The Chernobyl accident added to the problem.

What’s remarkable about the story is that the soil in Germany is still contaminated with cesium-135 from nuclear tests carried out decades ago, which probably should educate us about the longevity of radioactive material and how nuclear testing in one country can affect the entire planet. I don’t know but if a country is nuclear testing, they are potentially jeopardising the entire world with radioactive material.

A nice spin off from this story is that the wild boar are protected from hunters, which pleases me. It appears that the wild boar themselves are not suffering from ill health because of their radioactivity. It is high enough, as mentioned to prevent people eating the pigs.

The researchers found that truffle samples showed that 88% were above the levels of radioactive cesium deemed safe in food, which is bad news for the boars in one way but it’s protected them from humans.

Source: The Times Aug 31, 2023. Thanks.

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