Radioactive Honey, Honey! By Brian Simpson
Honey is great, a natural sweetener. But the best honey of all is radioactive honey, and there may be plenty of that around former US nuclear test sites, a legacy from decades ago. Clearly a new export industry!
“The United States conducted many nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, it was discovered that the legacy of these tests can remain for decades in American honey, according to a report.
After World War II, the United States and other countries, including China and the former Soviet Union, performed hundreds of aboveground nuclear tests. These bombs ejected a chemical element called radiocesium (a radioactive form of the element cesium) into the atmosphere.
Winds then spread the substance around the world until it fell out of the skies in microscopic particles.
Due to regional wind and rainfall patterns, the spread was not uniform. For instance, the U.S. east coast received far more contamination than some other places, according to the report.
The recent research started with a spring break assignment. James Kaste, a geologist at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, asked his undergraduate students to bring back local foods from their spring break destinations to test for radiocesium.
One student returned with honey from Raleigh, North Carolina. To Kaste’s surprise, it contained cesium in levels 100 times higher than in the rest of the samples, the report stated.
Radiocesium is water-soluble, and plants sometimes mistake it for potassium, a nutrient with similar chemical properties. Kaste and his students started their project in order to find out whether plants are still taking in this nuclear contaminant.
After finding the cesium in the honey, Kaste and his colleagues collected 122 samples of locally produced raw honey from various parts of the eastern United States and tested them for radiocesium.
“It’s really quite incredible,” Daniel Richter, a soil scientist at Duke University not involved with the study, said in the report.
He added that the study showed that the nuclear fallout “is still out there and disguising itself as a major nutrient.”
The results showed that there was radiocesium in 68 of the samples, at levels above 0.03 becquerels per kilogram, or about 870,000 atoms of radiocesium per tablespoon. A Florida sample had the highest levels of radioactivity at 19.1 becquerels per kilogram.
The results indicate that even after five decades, radioactive leftovers are still cycling among plants and animals thousands of miles from the nearest nuclear test site.”
Maybe once humans depart from the earth, their legacy may have been to increase the background radioactivity of the world. Hopefully it can be better than this.