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Reindeer pulling sleigh, Russia
Reindeer Pulling Sleigh Photo by Elen Schurova via wikimedia.

The Chernobyl accident is an obvious example of how human failures when dealing with a modern technical system can have global consequences and also be a potential threat to what we like to think of as the unspoiled wilderness of the Arctic.” (Ahman, 1995) http://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/rangifer/article/viewFile/1455/1370

Reindeer are particularly at risk from nuclear fallout because Reindeer love to eat lichens, and lichens are excellent absorbers of radiation. The, 26 April, 1986, Chernobyl disaster is well-documented to have scattered radioactive caesium 137 (cesium 137), with a half life of about 30 years over Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesium-137. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster This is very bad, as caesium is very similar to potassium and hence can be taken up by human and animal body as well. Potassium is one of the most important, and perhaps the most important element in the body, as it is necessary for nerve transmission, muscle function, and, by extension, heart function. It may also be involved in insulin regulation. And, not surprisingly, plutonium did get scattered in Europe, as well. And, they are able to distinguish plutonium from atomic bomb tests from Chernobyl Plutonium. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0265931X9390049D http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15023447/
According to the US EPA:
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant also introduced a large amount of Sr-90 into the environment. A large part of the Sr-90 was deposited in the Soviet Republics. The rest was dispersed as fallout over Northern Europe and worldwide.” Strontium is similar to calcium, which is essential for muscle function, as well as bones and teeth. Strontium 90 has a half life of 29.1 years according to the EPA who further note that “Internal exposure to Sr-90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia.http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/strontium.html Plutonium 240 and 239, have a half-life of 6,560 and 24,100 years respectively, and once inside the body, stay a very long time. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/plutonium.html All of these, once in the body, bombard the body with ionizing radiation, from within. Strontium and plutonium get into the bones of humans and reindeer. Thus, they will have to be taken up by the reindeer’s antlers, as well. Additionally, replacing one element by the wrong one can impact function.

Where fallout from a nuclear accident might land, is sometimes counterintuitive. The Icelandic low pressure system must have sucked the radioactive plume in from Chernobyl to Scandinavia and Finland, and with rainfall, very high levels fell upon them, in various locations. Mountains must have had an impact upon fall. Hence, around 2,000 kms (1,242 mi) northwest of Chernobyl, some places received as much as those in close proximity to Chernobyl. Reindeer herding areas were particularly hard hit. About 1600 km (994 mi) to the southwest, Austria took a big hit, which is also counterintuitive. There must have been a second, probably Genoa low, acting in conjunction with mountains-rainfall.
Chernobyl fallout Europe
This indicates that one cannot be complacent and say that a nuclear power plant, or waste dump safety doesn’t matter, if it’s not nearby. The fallout of an explosion could fall on you and skip the areas closer in. Other emissions from these or a uranium mine, can also move around.

One thing, which is very interesting, in this case, is that the reindeer herds were so contaminated that they finally just raised the acceptable radiation level for reindeer meat in Sweden, so that they could continue to sell the meat!!!!! (Yes, sorry to tell you that they eat and even sell Reindeer meat.) Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Research in May 2011, 25 years after the Chernobyl disaster, and focusing on reindeer grazing areas, indicated that the soil in Jotunheimen, a mountainous area in Norway, still has high levels of radioactive caesium. The area east of county road 51 over the Valdresflya mountain plateau was found to be more polluted than scientists previously thought. The Reindeer Husbandry Administration requested the study, which was done by Geological Survey of Norway, with the cooperation of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. http://www.ngu.no/no/Aktuelt/2012/Jotunheimen-fortsatt-radioaktiv/ http://www.ngu.no/no/hm/Publikasjoner/Rapporter/2011/2011-062/

Valdresflye, Norway. Found in May 2012 to be far more contaminated than initially thought.

The Ongoing Problem for Reindeer and their Herders explained:
Averted doses to Norwegian Sámi reindeer herders after the Chernobyl accident.
By Skuterud L, et al.
Health Phys. 2012 Feb;102(2):208-16. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3182348e12.
The Chernobyl fallout is an enduring challenge to reindeer husbandry in Norway, and South Sámi reindeer herders in central and southern Norway are as contaminated by (137)Cs as inhabitants close to Chernobyl. Therefore, Norwegian authorities continuously recommend to these reindeer herders the use of countermeasures to reduce their intake of (137)Cs. In this study, the authors have applied data on contamination levels in reindeer, results of dietary surveys, and whole body monitoring data in low and high contaminated areas to estimate the effectiveness of countermeasures and resulting averted doses to the reindeer herders. In the most contaminated area, the various countermeasures applied reduced radiocesium ingestion doses during 1986-2009 by about 73%, to an integrated dose of about 17 mSv. However, to comply with the recommended (137)Cs ingestion dose limit of 1 mSv y(-1), the study indicates that reindeer herders in the most contaminated areas will need to carry on with their countermeasures for another 10-15 y. Furthermore, the study indicates that whole body monitoring is an important tool to assess individual doses and countermeasure effectiveness in long-term management of a contamination situation and that such monitoring may be required to reach long-term reference levels
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22217593/ (bold added)

Contaminants in food chains of arctic ungulates: what have we learned from the Chernobyl accident? Rangifer, 18 (3-4): 119-126 The Second International Arctic Ungulate Conference, Fairbanks, Alaska, 13-17 August, 1995.
By Birgitta Ahman
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Reindeer Husbandry Unit, PO Box 7023, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Abstract: The Chernobyl accident of 1986 caused radioactive contamination of widespread areas of reindeer pasture in Scandinavia. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are especially exposed to radioactive fallout due to their winter diet, of which lichens are an important part. Much knowledge about the transfer of radiocaesium to reindeer, and via reindeer meat to man, was accumulated by intense scientific investigations, undertaken during the 1960’s and 1970’s, following nuclear weapons testing. Various ways to reduce the transfer of radiocaesium to animals and humans were also developed during this time. Much of the older knowledge proved to be of great value in the attempts to determine potential consequences of the Chernobyl accident and to suggest possible ways to ameliorate the effects of contamination. After Chernobyl, not only did reindeer prove to be a problem; many other food products originating from natural and semi-natural ecosystems were found to accumulate significant amounts of radiocaesium. Intense scientific work has produced new knowledge about the role of ungulates in the transfer of nutrients and contaminants within these systems. Different measures, like providing uncontaminated feed, use of caesium binders, altering the time of slaughter have been used with good results to minimize the transfer of radiocaesium to animals grazing natural pastures. The high cost of countermeasures has enforced consideration of cost against risk, which may also be of general interest with respect to other forms of pollution. Information, introduction of countermeasures and so forth would be more efficient in case a similar accident were to happen again. The Chernobyl accident is an obvious example of how human failures when deal-ing with a modern technical system can have global consequences and also be a potential threat to what we like to think of as the unspoiled wilderness of the Arctic.

Consequences of the Chernobyl accident for reindeer husbandry in Sweden
Rangifer, Special Issue No. 3, 1990: 83-88
By Gustaf Åhman 1 , Birgitta Åhman 2 de Axel Rydberg
1 department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden. • 2Department of Clinical Nutrition, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Abstract: Large parts of the reindeer hearding area in Sweden were contaminated with radioactive caesium from the Chernobyl fallout. During the first year after the accident no food with activity concentrations exceeding 300 Bq/kg was allowed to be sold in Sweden. This meant that about 75% of all reindeer meat produced in Sweden during the autumn and winter 1986/87 were rejected because of too high caesium activities. In May 1987 the maximum level for Cs-137 in reindeer, game and fresh-water fish was raised to 1500 Bq/kg. During the last two year, 1987/88 and 1988/89, about 25% of the slaughtered reindeer has had activities exceeding this limit. The effective long-time halflife of radiocaesium in reindeer after the nuclear weapon tests in the sixties was about 7 years. If this halflife is correct also for the Chernobyl fallout it will take about 35 years before most of the reinder in Sweden are below the current limit 1500 Bq/kg in the winter. However, by feeding the animals uncontaminated food for about two months, many reindeer can be saved for human consumption
“. http://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/rangifer/article/viewFile/835/799 Caesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesium-137 Caesium 134 has a half-life of 2 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotopes_of_caesium [26 December 2013 update. NB: She said “effective half-life”, rather than half-life, which means how long it takes for the caesium to be excreted. However, in a constantly contaminated environment this seems irrelevant. Enter the idea of binding the caesium and feeding them uncontaminated food to help clear their system prior to slaughter. But, the acceptable EU dose is 600 Bq/Kg for all types of caesium combined and not 1500 Bq/Kg, unless it has been changed. More on this below.]

Returning to the “Mapping of caesium fallout from the Chernobyl accident in the Jotunheimen area, by Vikas C. Baranwal, Frode Ofstad, Jan S. Rønning and Robin J. Watson for the Reindeer Hubandry Administration, Sør-Trøndelag/ Hedmark“, we are told that airborne gamma-ray spectrometry was used to calculate caesium concentrations in kBq/m2 in a 3900 km2 area in Jotunheimen: “The maximum value is about 70 kBq/m2 which is slightly higher than concentrations previously mapped in central Norway. The highest values (more than 50 kBq/m2) are concentrated in a 100 km2 area north of lake Vinstra. About 50% of the area has concentrations higher than 15 kBq/m2.http://www.ngu.no/upload/Publikasjoner/Rapporter/2011/2011_062.pdf These numbers actually appear low if you consider that 185 to 1480 kBq/m2 of Caesium 137 are believed to have fallen over Norway 25 years ago and the half-life is 30 years. And, in fact, they note “Heavy rainfall shortly before data collection may have contributed to a reduction in the measured concentrations.” http://www.ngu.no/upload/Publikasjoner/Rapporter/2011/2011_062.pdf

Thursday, 26 December 2013 (continuation)
Elsewhere, it is explained that due to washing away and grazing that they believe that this would correspond to an original fallout of 300 kBq in 1986. http://www.ngu.no/no/Aktuelt/2012/Jotunheimen-fortsatt-radioaktiv/

Yesterday, we overlooked the mention of “effective half-life” of caesium in reindeer. This has to do with the rate of biological excretion. However, there is one aspect of this that we do not find clearly mentioned anywhere. If a human or animal continues to eat food, or drink water or other liquids, contaminated by caesium, or otherwise ingest it, then it will remain in the body, in steady-state, after reaching maximum dose.

Although not mentioned per se, this fact is implied in the efforts of pre-slaughter reindeer herd management, where they feed the reindeer binders to help remove the caesium more promptly and they feed them uncontaminated food for two months and try to keep them from eating lichens (by slaughtering them before lichen season or feeding them other things).

But, in an increasingly contaminated world environment, there will eventually be no way to get clean food and water, unless food is farmed in a totally controlled and filtered environment. Water would have to be purified. Although it can be done, tritium is difficult to filter since it is radioactive water. Caesium is not the only radioactive element, which can be taken up in, and from, the environment. It appears the only one tested for, however.

Except to the extent that caesium washes elsewhere and that non-edible plants take up radioactive materials, it will stay in the environment. The reindeer herders have tried to manage this by giving the Reindeer food from elsewhere and keeping them out of lichens or slaughtering them before lichen season. Note that Sweden is placing the limit at 1500 Bq/kg, whereas, unless it has changed, the European standards is supposed to be 600 Bq/kg. (We need to check the standard for Norway). According to Finland, who also got Chernobyl fallout:
The European Commission has given a more specific recommendation (2003/120/EC) concerning cesium concentrations in wild food products. In Member States the cesium-134 and cesium-137 concentrations of edible wild products on the market should not exceed the total of 600 Becquerel per kilo (Bq/kg).” http://www.stuk.fi/stuk/tiedotteet/2003/en_GB/news_287/

According to the US gov (for humans):
Cesium-137 has an effective half-life in an adult of about 110 days, and under chronic exposure conditions reaches a maximal dose contribution after about 2 years. By contrast, plutonium absorbed from the gastrointestinal or respiratory tract enters the blood stream and deposits in liver and bone with an effective half-life of 20 to 50 years.https://marshallislands.llnl.gov/glossary.php Notice that no one dares to talk about plutonium and strontium, which stay in the body a very long time, even if one can be removed from the contaminating source. Notice that half-life for plutonium is up to 50 years! Half of that half will be gone at 100 years! Maximum reindeer life in captivity is 21.8 years with averages at 10 to 15 years. That’s if they are not eaten first!

One of the remedies which the Reindeer herders use on the Reindeer is Prussian blue: “Prussian blue can reduce the effective half-life of Cesium down to about 30 days in humanshttp://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/prussianblue.asp Now, that could helpful for one-time contamination, though you still have radiation in your body for 30 days. But, it also means that the Reindeer (or people) will excrete it back into the environment, so unless it is filtered out, the caesium manure will fertilize and be taken back up by plants and, depending on the plant, by animals (including people). According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), Prussian Blue traps the Caesium in the intestines for excretion, such that it is not reabsorbed. The EPA says, below, that it leaves in the urine. Presumably, that is if it is left to be reabsorbed by the blood vessels in the intestines. Either way, unless filtered, it stays in the environment for a half-life of 30 years. Any filters have to be disposed of somewhere, i.e. in those dumps no one wants.

In another example, clean water can help clear tritium (radioactive water) from the body. But, if all water has tritium, then eventually that will not work! That is one reason that pouring tritium out into the environment, as they want to do for Fukushima, and are doing to some extent elsewhere, is most definitely not ok! Tritium can also become organically bound which is even more problematic.

The US EPA explains sources and impacts of caesium contamination, as follows:
Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. In the Northern Hemisphere, the average annual dose from exposure to cesium-137 associated with atmospheric fallout is less than 1 mrem; this dose continues to diminish every year as cesium-137 decays.

People may also be exposed from contaminated sites:
Walking on cesium-137 contaminated soil could result in external exposure to gamma radiation. Leaving the contaminated area would prevent additional exposure.
Coming in contact with waste materials at contaminated sites could also result in external exposure to gamma radiation. Leaving the area would also end the exposure.
If cesium-137 contaminated soil becomes air-borne as dust, breathing the dust would result in internal exposure. Because the radiation emitting material is then in the body, leaving the site would not end the exposure.
Drinking cesium-137 contaminated water, would also place the cesium-137 inside the body, where it would expose living tissue to gamma and beta radiation.
People may also unknowingly handle a strong industrial source of cesium-137. For example, certain moisture gauges contain cesium-137 sources.

How does cesium-137 get into the body?
People may ingest cesium-137 with food and water, or may inhale it as dust. If cesium-137 enters the body, it is distributed fairly uniformly throughout the body’s soft tissues, resulting in exposure of those tissues. Slightly higher concentrations of the metal are found in muscle, while slightly lower concentrations are found in bone and fat. Compared to some other radionuclides, cesium-137 remains in the body for a relatively short time. It is eliminated through the urine. Exposure to cesium-137 may also be external (that is, exposure to its gamma radiation from outside the body).

Health Effects of Cesium-137
How can cesium-137 affect people’s health?
Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer. Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures.

If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source. The magnitude of the health risk depends on exposure conditions. These include such factors as strength of the source, length of exposure, distance from the source, and whether there was shielding between you and the source (such as metal plating).” http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/cesium.html (bold added)

They failed to underline that caesium, because it is similar to potassium, is uptaken by plants. The plants, in turn, are eaten by humans or by animals, which themselves may be eat by humans (e.g. Reindeer).

This is how ABC news in the USA reported the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl disaster on April 30, 1986. They noted that about “half a dozen” European countries had radiation levels 3 to 20 times the norm. The price of food commodities, such as wheat, soared on the US stock market because it was believed that food imports would be required to replace contaminated food. Scandinavia and others are mentioned. A map is shown of the fallout. The mystery surrounding it makes one think of the mystery continuing to surround Fukushima:

According to the Norwegian Environment Agency on Reindeer (31.10.2012):
Norway is home to the last remaining viable populations of wild reindeer in Europe, and we therefore have a special responsibility for ensuring their survival…In winter 2009, there were almost 28,000 wild reindeer in Norway. Originally, their range included all Norway’s mountain areas. Reindeer in the southern half of the country are thought to have been split between four main regions… However, there were few barriers to reindeer movement at the time, and probably a great deal of exchange of animals between regions.

Wild reindeer now locally extinct in several areas
North of Trondheim and in certain mountain areas further south, domestic reindeer have completely replaced the wild populations. Even south of Trondheim, they are now restricted to certain parts of their original distribution area.

Wild reindeer habitat fragmented
During the past 30 years, many roads, reservoirs and holiday cabins have been constructed in and near areas of Norway where there are still wild reindeer populations. This has resulted in fragmentation of reindeer habitat and has split up populations. Today there are 23 more or less separate and much smaller wild reindeer areas, and very little opportunity for animals to move between them.

The original large regions covered wide climatic gradients and offered good grazing at different times of year. Some of the smaller areas of habitat now available lack good grazing at certain times of year.

Several of the remaining areas of reindeer habitat are at risk of further development and fragmentation, which would will split up the reindeer populations still further.

Balance between reindeer numbers and grazing resources
Today, there is a good balance between wild reindeer numbers and grazing resources, and the carrying capacity of reindeer habitat is being maintained. Lichen-covered areas, which are the most important winter grazing habitat for wild reindeer, are not being overgrazed, and the thickness of the lichen mats is not decreasing…

More information, pictures and maps are available at the link. No mention is made of the radiation hazard and what the impact might be on reindeer health. Nor the fact that reindeer need to avoid lichens. Presumably the reindeer that herders are trying to keep from eating lichens are the domesticated variety. It would be interesting to do a comparative study of the two groups, if it hasn’t been done. How much caesium is found in reindeer which are not given special food or Prussian Blue (or other binders)?

Research undertaken shortly after Chernobyl indicated:
High radio-cesium contamination of wild reindeer from southern Norway following the Chernobyl accident” 72 Rangifer, 1986, No. 1. Appendix
By Terje Skogland , Directorate for Nature Management, Research Division, Tungasletta 2, N-7000 Trondheim, Norway
Abstract: The mean summer values in 1986 from Dovrefjell were 16 Kbq/kg fresh reindeer muscle which were about 20 times higher than peak values from the Kola peninsula USSR in 1965 after the culmination of fallout from nuclear arms testing. The values decreased from about 19 Kbq/kg in June to lowest levels in August, about 8 Kbq/kg , and increased as reindeer started to feed more on lichens in September, to about 15 Kbq/kg muscle. Values in calves were on average 1.4 times higher than in adults (variation from 10-40 Kbq /kg. It appeared that 80% of wild reindeer were contaminated (in 23 of 26 wild herds). Only those herds in the SW part or W side of the Langfjella had escaped the fallout. It appeared that most of the fallout from Chernobyl were absorbed in vegetation and particularly lichens on the east side of the continental divide (Langfjella), and increasing with altitude (E. Gaare pers. comm.). Since most wild reindeer herds had been summer grazing on the west side of the divide, summer values were moderate compared to the absorbed values in the lichens (on the east side of the divide) which is their main winter food. Based on those values, ranging from 40-80 Kbq/kg D W lichens, and earlier published data on the bioconcentration factor for lichens, radio-cesium values in wild reindeer fresh weight muscle in the winter 1987 is expected to reach 20 – 100 Kbq / kg in the Dovrefjell – Jotunheimen – Hallingskarvet areas, but variation in mean values are expected to be large, depending on how high up in the mountains and how far east of the continental divide nomadic wild reindeer will go foraging, and how much lichens are available (varies with a factor of 5 between wintering areas)
.” Full article here:
http://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/rangifer/article/viewFile/606/575 (Note that this is Kbq, KILO becquerel or 1,000 times greater than Bq/kg).

The following year:
Radiocesium concentrations in wild reindeer at Dovrefjell, Norway. By Terje Skogland, Directorate for Nature Management, Research Div., Tungasletta 2, N-7047 Trondheim, Norway (1987). Rangifer, 7(2): 42-45
Abstract: Seasonal radiocesium concentrations varied about 6 times in wild reindeer following the Chernobyl accident, from 8 KBq/kg in August to 46 KBq/kg in March. These results agree with the predictions of earlier models. The within-season coefficient of variation was 52-62%. Between one half and 3/4 of this variation was explained by altitudinal and geographical factors, i.e. a 5-fold increase in concentrations from the westernmost to the easternmost locations across the watershed at Dovrefjell, and a 6-fold increase in concentrations from feeding locations in the subalpine to the high alpine zone in autumn. The positive correlation with altitude was reversed in winter for animals foraging in the subalpine coniferous zone on arboreal lichens
.” Full article here: http://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/rangifer/article/viewFile/715/679

Friday, 27 December 2013 (update-continuation)

Norway, 2005:
Chernobyl radioactivity persists in reindeer.
By Skuterud L, et al. Show
J Environ Radioact. 2005;83(2):231-52.
Transfer of 137Cs in the soil-plant/lichen-reindeer food chain was studied in central (Østre Namdal) and southern Norway (Vågå) during 2000-2003. Reindeer from these areas have been continuously subjected to countermeasure application since the 1986 Chernobyl accident. In both areas no decline in 137Cs concentrations was detectable in reindeer slaughtered in autumn since 1995, or in reindeer slaughtered in winter since 1998-1999. Seasonal differences in 137Cs concentrations in reindeer have been less pronounced in recent years, with 137Cs concentrations occasionally higher in autumn than in winter. Soil-to-plant 137Cs transfer was significantly higher in Østre Namdal than in Vågå. Climatic influences on lichen growth and abundance, and on soil properties that influence the availability of 137Cs for plant uptake, are hypothesized to have a larger impact on long-term transfer of radiocaesium in the soil-plant/lichen-reindeer food chain than has been previously observed.
PMID 15939511 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Full text: Elsevier Science (bold added for emphasis) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15939511/

Saturday, 28 December 2013 (update-continuation)

According to Gudmund Løvø of the Norwegian geological survey (May2012),the area of Jotunheimen, researched in the 2011 study, is grazing land for 7,500 reindeer and there is extensive meat production. While the cesium-137 has a half life of 30 years, Chernobyl fallout also contained cesium-134 – with a half-life of two years. Additionally, some of the fallout is washed out and grazed away. Hence, it is assumed that the area had about 300 kilobecquerel cesium per square meter in 1986. Although fewer hot-spots with high activity were recorded, the figures are higher than were previously mapped in large areas in Norway after the disaster. While it is good to better know where the challenges are greatest, there is still enough pollution in the area to cause problems for the grazing industry for many years. When the mountain range was investigated in 1986, they had no equipment which could separated the cesium from natural radioactive sources such as thorium and uranium. Although the amount of deposition is important in determining pollution impact of the pollution, it is also important to study the soil and vegetation types that are in the area. Even with relatively little fallout there may be high concentrations in vegetation in areas with vulnerable soils. Therefore, researchers conducted supplemental fieldwork on the ground in summer 2012. http://www.ngu.no/no/Aktuelt/2012/Jotunheimen-fortsatt-radioaktiv/ (The above is an excerpt and summary from original in Norwegian)

There are several generally important points here. For instance, soil and vegetation type matter. One critical point is the observation that some of the fall out is washed out and grazed away and the possibility of higher concentrations in plants and vegetation. Washed away would mean that it moves into the ground, potentially into groundwater aquifers, rivers and streams and more generally downhill (and downstream). Tritium could evaporate and blow away on the wind.

It further points us in the direction of unethical and sometimes inadvertent methods of getting “rid” of radioactive materials: “Dilute and Disperse” and “Concentrate and Contain” (and “Incinerate”). (see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068798/#!po=43.3333 ) The first time we heard of the idea of “dilute and disperse” was allegations of one country intentionally exporting its radioactive materials in the form of pottery ware (cups, mugs, etc.). Because, as the pro-nuclear people love to tell us, background varies both in time and place, it can be difficult to ascertain if there are low levels of radiation in an object. Whatever the pro-nuclear lobby alleges, there is no safe dose of radiation and risk increases with exposure. No safe dose is recognized internationally and is common sense for anyone who has studied biological sciences.

As we have discussed, a certain amount of radioactive caesium is allowed in food, even where it is checked, and don’t be so sure that it is always checked. Even if caesium is checked, it is not clear if other things such as strontium and tritium, which can easily be picked up in the food chain are checked. Concentrate and contain should normally refer to waste storage. However, if you think about it, plants and animals are concentrating and containing radiation. If the food is exported, then you are exporting the radiation! After the food is eaten, it is in the body of humans or animals eating it and will either gradually leave their bodies, or still be there upon death. Either way, it enters the environment in the new location. So, when Japan exports food from the Fukushima area, they are actually exporting the radiation from the island. This is why Haitians got mad when the Japanese donated them rice. The same would be true for canned Reindeer meat. However, Reindeer meat would appear a specialty product.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

So, may there be radioactive food at a store or market near you? Surprisingly enough, absolutely. For the majority, canned radioactive reindeer is probably the least of your concerns, although we will come back to the reindeer tomorrow. There have recently been worries about contaminated food from near Chernobyl being exported to other parts of Europe where the standards are lower. We couldn’t find a reference but recall hearing this. If the below video is accurate, Japanese standards are actually more strict than US and European ones. But, as these Japanese farmer note, they seem to usually only test for Caesium. The farmer is upset that he eats clean and safe food but that they are selling food that they themselves won’t eat.

One Japanese newspaper says that they are putting extra potassium on the soil with hopes that the food will draw up the potassium rather than the caesium. Even so, it would seem that dilute and disperse is at work, most likely to keep commerce and food supplies alive, rather than a clean-up policy.

This article concurs with the video:
Fukushima/radiation in food, 30.03.2011
EU tolerance limits for radiation in food imports less strict than Japan; Greens demand revision
http://www.greens-efa.eu/fukushimaradiation-in-food-3606.html However, it seems that after it was remarked that food which was more radioactive than Japanese standards was arriving in Europe, Europe decided that it would adopt Japanese standards for products imported from Japan. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:299:0031:0041:EN:PDF From what we can gather, the US is happy to be dumped on, with standards for Caesium at a whopping 1200 Bq/kg compared to Japan’s average of 100 Bq/kg. For kids and milk Japanese standards are 50 Bq/kg and for water and unfermented tea 10 Bq/kg. Japanese feed for cattle is 100, pig feed 80, poultry feed 160 and fish feed 40 Bq/kg. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/UCM074576 The feed is the most dangerous, as we see from the Reindeer example. It will bioaccumulate and accumulate in the environment from animal wastes. Except to the extent that the US totally blocks imports from Japan (see below), and that appears to follow in step with Japanese will, the US is ripe dumping ground for radioactive food from Japan. Additionally, it will get a good deal of the radiation itself. Those in the US need to be concerned. It seems that Norway, Sweden and Finland can find a good market for their canned Reindeer meat, in the US, once they get the becquerels down from 1500 to 1200 Bq/Kg.

What South Korea has to say about Japan’s exports:
South Korea bans fish imports from Japan’s Fukushima region
Seoul blames ‘scientifically unacceptable’ information from Tepco over radiation levels in waters around nuclear plant
Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian, Friday 6 September 2013

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/south-korea-fish-japan-fukushima In the article there is also info on China: “Despite assurances by Japan that it rigorously tests food for radiation, China has also maintained a ban on dairy, vegetable and seafood imports from several prefectures, including Fukushima, since March 2011.”

Regions and Prefectures of Japan 2
Regions and Prefectures of Japan via wikimedia

This is some info about 2013 revisions for products being exported from Japan and imported into Europe. This appears mostly a weakening of protection. They inform Japan that they will stop testing certain things, which appears a potentially big mistake. At least the US checks a certain percentage of imports, presumably randomly:
For the review a very prudent approach has been followed, given that non-compliances were found during the monitoring in Japan and reported by the Japanese authorities on products from prefectures not subject to testing before export to the EU. The envisaged changes are:
a) For the products originating from the zone with restrictions (9 prefectures: Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa or Iwate) the following is proposed : * Pears, taro, pomefruit, pawpaw, yacon and scallops are removed from the list of products for which pre-testing is required before export to the EU; * buckwheat, lotus root, threeleaf arrowroot and beef (the import of beef from Japan has been recently authorised) are added to the list of products for which pre-testing is required before export to the EU.
B.8 Exchange of views and possible opinion of the Committee on a draft Commission Regulation amending Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the use of certain additives in seaweed based fish roe analogues.
B.9 exchange of views and possible opinion on a draft Commission Implementing Regulation amending Implementing Regulation (EU) No 996/2012 imposing special conditions governing the import of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station. SANCO/10686/2013
b) Following findings of non-compliance, mushrooms from Nagano, Aomori and Niigata (prefectures adjacent to the current zone with restrictions) are added for pretesting.
For the feed and food originating from Fukushima and for tea from Shizuoka and tea and mushrooms from Yamanashi, no changes to the current provisions have been proposed.
Following a question from a delegation, it was clarified that the maximum level applicable to tea from Japan produced before 31 March 2012 is 500 Bq/kg for the sum of caesium-134 and caesium-137.
Questions were raised as regards the exclusion of only scallops within the group of Crustaceans, the inclusion of beef for pretesting and the next review. The Commission representative provided in detail the justification for the proposed changes and clarified that the review date of 31 March 2014 as provided in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 996/2012 remains applicable.
Furthermore one delegation mentioned that it would be appropriate to align the control measures with the provisions of other special measures and this as regards the use of the Common Entry Document (CED), requirement for pre-notification, conditions for release for free circulation, etc. The Commission representative indicated to agree that this would be indeed appropriate and that this would be taken into account in the next review foreseen to be finalised by March 2014.
Vote taken: unanimous in favour.
http://ec.europa.eu/food/committees/regulatory/scfcah/toxic/sum_17042013_en.pdf (bold added for emphasis)

Below are standards that were in place up until one year ago. Japan has since gone to the more strict standards mentioned above. Europe appears to be using Japan’s standards.
Annex III Transitional measures provided in Japanese legislation and of application for this Regulation
(a) Milk and dairy products, mineral water and similar drinks that are manufactured and/or processed before 31 March 2012 shall not contain radioactive caesium more than 200 Bq/kg. Other foods, except for rice, soybean and processed products thereof that are manufactured, and/or processed before 31 March 2012 shall not contain radioactive caesium more than 500 Bq/kg.
(b) Products made from rice that are manufactured, and/or processed before 30 September 2012 shall not contain radioactive caesium more than 500 Bq/kg.
(c) Soybean harvested and placed on the market before 31 December 2012 shall not contain radioactive caesium more than 500 Bq/kg.
(d) Products made from soybean that are manufactured and/or processed before 31 December 2012 shall not contain radioactive caesium more than 500 Bq/kg
“. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:299:0031:0041:EN:PDF
Annex III gives the newer standards mentioned already above.

As for the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration, the
FDA is processing all food products from Japan in four categories:
Category 1 consists of products that the Government of Japan has restricted for sale or export. Authorities will prevent these products from entering the U.S. These products cannot gain entry by providing sample results. As of July 11, 2011, these include:
Tea leaves from Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Kanagawa, and Chiba prefectures, and dace, ayu, and cherry salmon (yamame) from Fukushima.
Spinach, lettuce, celery, cress, endive, escarole, chard, collards, and other head-type leafy vegetables from the Fukushima Prefecture.
Turnips and other non-head type leafy vegetables, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, flower head brassicas (i.e. broccoli and cauliflower), mushrooms bamboo shoots, and Ostrich fern from the Fukushima Prefecture.
Sand lance from Fukushima Prefecture
Milk from the Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures.
Spinach and kakina from the Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures.
Category 2 consists of products from the Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi Prefectures that the Government of Japan has not currently banned for sale or export. These specific products include dairy products and fresh produce. Under Import Alert 99-33, authorities may detain these products when they arrive in the U.S. Authorities will release these products from detention if the importer can show the products are compliant.
Category 3 consists of food and feed products not covered by FDA’s Import Alert that come from these three Japanese prefectures:
FDA will examine these products, sampling and testing as needed, to determine if they are safe to enter the U.S.

Category 4 consists of all other FDA-regulated food products from Japan that are not listed in the Import Alert and do not belong to one of the other categories. Authorities will review these products using standard procedures, and as part of this may monitor and sample products as resources permit.
” (bold added by us for emphasis) http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_621.html

Just what are the US standards? They appear incredibly lax compared to Europe and Japan:
Radionuclide Group
Strontium-90 160 Bq/kg
Iodine-131 170 Bq/kg
Cesium-134 + Cesium-137 1200 Bq/kg
Plutonium-238 + Plutonium-239 + Americium-241 2 Bq/kg (yes, 2 Bq/kg
Ruthenium-103 + Ruthenium-106c
” (formula given at site) http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/UCM074576

Monday, 30 December 2013 (continuation)

We checked the allowed caesium 134-137 for some other countries. The moral seems to be to have your soil tested and grow your own food (unless you live in or near Fukushima), and don’t eat or drink anything you don’t need to. Or, perhaps move to Japan as their food standards appear higher than standards in any other country which we have found (we hope there are countries somewhere with better standards!). Don’t move too near Fukushima and make sure the secrecy laws and other similar things don’t bother you, however. Japan’s new stricter food standards food were adopted before the current government came (back) into power. EU is following strict standards for Japanese imports, when they test them, and stricter than their own, internal standards, despite the fact that much of the EU is contaminated by Caesium 137, etc. from Chernobyl.

Many countries, such as the US, Canada, and Australia, have such weak protection as to make them major potential dumping grounds for radioactive food from Japan, as well as from areas impacted by Chernobyl – radioactive food which would not be of acceptable quality in Japan, China, or Taiwan. Everyone could indeed learn something from poor Haitians who got mad that Japan gave them rice. For Australia we find: “The following foods will be identified for testing for radionuclides Caesium134 (Cs134) and Caesium137 (Cs137): Tea (fresh and dried), Dried mushrooms, Fish (fresh, frozen and dried) This testing will be applied where the foods are from the following prefectures in Japan: Chiba, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Saitama, Tochigi, Tokyo and Yamagata.” and “As per the assessment policy provided by FSANZ, the test results will be assessed against the international Codex Alimentarius to determine a pass or a fail. The total Cs134 and Cs137 must not be more than 1000 Becquerels (Bq)/kg.http://www.daff.gov.au/biosecurity/import/food/notices/2009/2012/ifn_0712

According to the German Society for Radiation Protection, http://www.strahlentelex.de (Gesellschaft für Strahlenschutz e.V.), even the Japanese standard is not good enough: “recommend that no food with a concentration of more than 4 Becquerel of the leading radionuclide Cesium-137 per kilogram shall be given to infants, children and adolescents. Grown-ups are recommended to eat no food over 8 Becquerel per kilogram of the leading nuclide Cesium-137.http://www.strahlentelex.de/Recommendations_engl.pdf It is unclear if this is both caesium 134 and 137 or strictly 137. Most or all standards seem to include both, together, although it is not always clear. Caesium 134 should no longer be a problem from Chernobyl because of the shorter half-life, so this may only be for Cs 137.
Radiation in US and Canadian Food

Comparatively Strict Standards for Japanese Food
Japan new rad food standards Apr 2012 (pre Abe)

Click to access new_standard.pdf

International Recommendations on Safe Levels of Radiation and Radionuclides in Food
Kwan Hoi Shan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong”
Rad Food, EU Rad emergency standard, USA, CA
Rad Food Standards Japan pre 2012, Condex, China, Taiwan, Singapore
http://www.hkctc.gov.hk/en/doc/International_Recommendations_on_Safe_Levels_of_Radiation_and_Radionuclides_in_Food.pdf http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/imports/japan-nuclear-crisis/test-results-september-october-2012/eng/1384713807497/1384713849714
The above standards, given by Kwan Hoi Shan, appear to be EU radiation emergency standards and, as noted, no longer apply for Japanese imports. For the EU non-emergency standards: Within the EU, upper limits for Caesium are 370 Bq/kg for milk products and baby food as well as 600 Bq/kg for other foods. http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/de/marktcheck/themen/essen/probleme/radioaktivitaet-lebensmittel/ In the case of a nuclear accident occurring in the EU, however, automatically increased limits for cesium-137 of 400 Bq/kg for baby food 1000 Bq/kg for milk products as well as 1250 Bq/kg for other foods http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/Global/austria/marktcheck/uploads/media/1103_Factsheet_Radioaktivitaet_und_Lebensmittel_02.pdf Although they only mention caesium 134 and 137, it may include both. The following is a late 2013 legal proposal regarding contamination levels in nuclear emergency, in English: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/doc/2013_576_com.pdf

Swedish Reindeer remain under a rule of 1500 Bq/Kg caesium 137. This must be under a Chernobyl emergency law for the EC-EU or an international exception, perhaps to protect indigenous lifestyles (although it may contribute to extermination of indigenous Sami people): “Today the safety standard in reindeer and game is 1500 Bq/kg, which is based on an international agreement.
http://www.slu.se/en/collaboration-innovation/knowledge-bank/2011/8/traces-of-chernobyl-remains-in-reindeer/ If it is an international agreement then Norwegian and Finnish reindeer must also be under this weak standard. This year the EU is proposing special rules for a radiation emergency under which “minor foodstuffs”, some of which are not so minor, can go up to 12,500 Bq/kg. These “minor” foods include cocoa, i.e. chocolate, and sweet potatos and similar roots and tubers. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/doc/2013_576_com.pdf Regular potatoes, as similar roots and tubers, would seem to fall under this high dose, whereas they are a major food staple in much of Europe, as is, to a lesser extent, chocolate. Hop cones, used in beer, are also in this “minor” foodstuff, whereas beer consumption is anything but minor in much of Europe. The radiation allowed in food stuffs for animals is also high. It was proposed law (update) and we do not know if it was passed, but it is a criminal law indeed.

Some other interesting, related, information:
Radiation rules for imports from the Chernobyl area to EU http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/eur81081.pdf
The following seems to be an application of pre-existing radiation emergency food standards even though Fukushima was not in Europe: http://www.foodwatch.org/en/what-we-do/news/eu-relaxes-regulations-for-products-from-japan/
Major US Health Food Brand response to Fukushima: http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=199

Tuesday, 31 December 2013 (continuation)

For those who are appalled at the lack of protection in US standards, we ran across the following US government site where you can put in comment. There is some additional information, as well. From a quick glance, it seems that the poor standards date from 1998, and that they were stricter before: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2013-P-0291-0001 http://www.regulations.gov/contentStreamer?objectId=0900006481229c9f&disposition=attachment&contentType=pdf http://www.regulations.gov/contentStreamer?objectId=0900006481229c66&disposition=attachment&contentType=pdf http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2013-P-0291-0001 See also: http://ffan.us/take-action
Dumping of radioactive food on US, Australian, Canadian or other markets, by Japan or others, is not only bad for health and the environment, but it could be bad for the local farmers, if the prices of radioactive food undercut local food prices.

We finally found the “standards” for caesium in Norwegian food, dated 2006, from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority: “The levels state when dose limiting countermeasures have to be activated. The current limits for radioactive caesium in foodstuffs for sale in Norway are:
Reindeer and game meat: 3000 Bq/kg
Freshwater fish: 3000 Bq/kg
Milk and children’s food: 370 Bq/kg
Other foodstuffs: 600 Bq/kg

They furthermore note that “During the first couple of years after the fallout, high concentrations of radioactive caesium were measured in reindeer (150 000 Bq/kg), sheep (40 000 Bq/kg), wild mushrooms (up to 1-2 million Bq/kg), and freshwater fish (30 000 Bq/kg).http://www.nrpa.no/dav/8261e12842.pdfq Note that Norway is not in the EU. However, we do not know what this means for radiation standards for food export-import.

Worth noting:
Biomagnification – “Biomagnification is the sequence of processes in an ecosystem by which higher concentrations of a particular chemical, such as the pesticide DDT, are reached in organisms higher up the food chain, generally through a series of prey-predator relationships.” – Oxford University, 2008
Biomagnification — “Result of the process of bioaccumulation and biotransfer by which tissue concentrations of chemicals in organisms at one trophic level exceed tissue concentrations in organisms at the next lower trophic level in a food chain.” – Environmental Protection Agency, 2010

This means that the impact would be greatest on lynx who live largely off of Reindeer, or other deer. Wolverines also eat Reindeer. As they would generally prey on the weakest Reindeer, they should, in theory, eat the Reindeer who have developed neurological, muscular, or heart conditions due to Caesium mimicking potassium and Strontium mimicking calcium. It is, of course, true of humans, as well, to the extent that the food which they eat is contaminated. However, humans are unlikely to eat Reindeer which appear in poor health, whereas picking out the weakest member of the herd is the job of the lynx and other carnivore-predators.
Lynx lynx poing
Eurasian Lynx. Photo by Bernard Landgraf via Wikipedia

This logic is how we found this article abstract:
Radiocaesium in lynx in relation to ground deposition and diet.
B Ahman, S M Wright, B J Howard
Reindeer Husbandry Unit Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 7023, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.
Biophysik (Impact Factor: 1.75). 08/2004; 43(2):119-26. DOI:10.1007/s00411-004-0242-y
Source: PubMed
ABSTRACT The European lynx (Lynx lynx) might be expected to have a high intake of radiocaesium in the parts of Sweden where the main prey of the lynx, namely reindeer and roe deer, have high activity concentrations of radiocaesium because of high ground deposition. We have measured (137)Cs in muscle samples from 733 lynx during 1996-2003. The aim was to quantify the extent to which radiocaesium is transferred from fallout deposition to lynx, to test whether the transfer was higher in areas where there are reindeer present, to see if there was any decline in radiocaesium over time, and to calculate the radiation dose to lynx. Most samples were collected in central and northern Sweden during January-April. Activity concentrations in lynx varied from 13 Bq kg(-1) to about 15 kBq kg(-1) fresh weight, with the highest value corresponding to a radiation dose at 18 mGy/year. Aggregated transfer coefficients (Tag), calculated by dividing the (137)Cs activity concentration in lynx muscle by the average ground deposition (total from Chernobyl and nuclear weapon tests) within a 50 km radius around the location of the lynx, varied from 0.004 to 1.3 m(2) kg(-1) and were significantly higher within the reindeer herding area than outside. The concentration ratio (CR) for lynx/reindeer was 2.6 on average, whilst the average for lynx/roe deer outside the reindeer herding area was lower at 1.3. Based on these results, a CR of around 2 could be considered representative for the general ratio between predator and prey. A long-term decline of radiocaesium in prey species was reflected in lynx, with an effective half-life of 7 years from 1996 to 2003. The study shows that the accumulation of radiocaesium in predators, especially predators of reindeer, makes them more vulnerable to high radiocaesium deposition than most other wild species.
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/8487638_Radiocaesium_in_lynx_in_relation_to_ground_deposition_and_diet There is also: “Concentrations of 137Cs in lynx (Lynx lynx) in relation to prey choice“. Lavrans Skuterud, et. al. (2004 ) Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 80 (2005) 125–138

Cladonia rangiferina Gr\'e5 reinlav
Reindeer Lichen. Public Domain via Wikimedia

However, as we will soon see, as Reindeer research has evolved, over the course of time, it has proven that the concept of “effective half-life” is, as common sense would indicate, worthless in the context of a closed contaminated environment (closed system). Skuterud, Ahman et. al. (2009 have found that lichens initially took up much of the radiation, because they take up nutrients-radiation primarily from air. As, over the years, they were eaten or otherwise broken down into the soil, the Caesium 137, which they had absorbed, entered the broader environment more extensively, impacting more rooted plants (and water). Thus, they now believe that the effective half-life will be close to the actual half-life of the element, Caesium 137, itself, that is, 30 years. [For those who wish to read ahead, see Ahman et. al.: http://www.nks.org/download/seminar/2009_jss/JSS_2-3.pdf http://www.risoe.dk/rispubl/NKS/NKS-193.pdf ] And, it has to be this way, except to the extent that the Caesium 137 could be washed downhill and/or into waterways, blown by wind, or exported in foodstuffs.

The idea of effective half-life is for one time poisoning. It is more a pharmacological-toxicological concept. It is a useful concept only if uncontaminated food and water can be accessed. However, even the semi-domesticated Reindeer are not watched constantly. And, if humans continue to contaminate the world with radiation there will no longer be (adequately) clean food or water anywhere. Additionally, even in a one time poisoning, the radiation is still in the body for an extended period of time, which can cause health impacts. It can even impact the offspring of Reindeer and future generations (even if the Reindeer itself is eaten).

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Before we get back to reindeer, let’s talk of another reindeer predator, humans:
Chernobyl ’caused Sweden cancers’
Saturday, 20 November, 2004, 16:41 GMT
The fallout of Chernobyl has affected millions of lives
More than 800 people in northern Sweden may have developed cancer as a result of the fallout of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, a new study claims. Swedish scientists said the ‘Chernobyl effect’ was the only likely explanation for 849 cancer cases they came across.

From the study, “Increase of regional total cancer incidence in north Sweden due to the Chernobyl accident? By Martin Tondel et. al. J Epidemiol Community Health 2004;58:1011–1016:
the total number of incident cancer cases related to the Chernobyl accident in the seven counties of Sweden can formally be estimated as 849 during the follow up to 1996….
our study shows that the risk from low dose irradiation might come earlier and be slightly higher than predicted by the International Commission on Radiological Protection estimates, let alone random variation and other uncertainty in our study about the calculated number of extra cases. The official risk estimate relies to a great extent on the follow up of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but has been questioned as the cohort was created five years after the explosions and therefore ignoring early cases.

A short latency period like in our study has been seen in other epidemiological studies on ionising radiation. Recent evaluations of radon progeny exposure and lung cancer has also indicated that the comparatively recent exposure might have the stronger effect …
Our findings of an increase of total cancer incidence in Sweden soon after the Chernobyl accident is therefore not a unique finding.
” Full text available at link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1732641/pdf/v058p01011.pdf (bold added for emphasis)

Note that the above research addresses only cancer and only for the first ten years: from 1986 to 1996. It does not address other disorders or disease which could arise due to the radiation: e.g. heart disease, thyroid disease, neurological disease. Remember that caesium mimics potassium in the body. Potassium is needed for nerve function. Strontium which also occurs in the fallout mimics calcium which is important not only for bones and teeth, but also for muscle function. The heart is a muscle which also involves nerve-electrical signals. Hence, both potassium and calcium are critical for heart function! So, not only is there radiation risk but there would have to be health effects related to loss of function.

Reindeer are not the only animals and food contaminated by Chernobyl. Greenpeace Austria discusses the state of contaminated food 25 years after Chernobyl:
Due to the raining of radioactive particles from the stricken reactor in Chernobyl, in many parts of Europe increased cesium-137 values ​​can still be found today. Thus, for example, in the United Kingdom, in 2009, there were still 369 farms (with a total of 190,000 sheep) in areas heavily contaminated with cesium-137.  In mushrooms, in the Voges region of France, the cesium-137 limit was exceeded by a factor of 40 in 1997. In 2010 every fifth boar shot in the Bavarian Forest still had more than 600 Bq/kg and consumption was not allowed. The wild boar have a great fondness for eating deer truffles which are heavily contaminated with cesium-137 and so their bodies become “enriched” with the radioactive nuclide. http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/de/themen/atom/hintergrund-info/radioaktivitaet-und-lebensmittel/ (original in German)

Friday, January 3, 2014 (continuation)

This is an abstract on the status of caesium research in Swedish Reindeer from 1986 to 2001 by Professor Birgitta Ahman and others:
Effect of origin of radiocaesium on the transfer from fallout to reindeer meat. By Ahman B, et al.
Sci Total Environ. 2001 Oct 20;278(1-3):171-81.
Data on radiocaesium contamination of reindeer from five regions in Sweden have been used, together with interpolated radiocaesium deposition data, to quantify spatial variation in transfer to reindeer meat and to consider how it changes with time in different areas. Since the regions were contaminated to different extents by global and Chernobyl fallout, it was also possible to determine the influence of the origin or age of radiocaesium fallout on the transfer to reindeer meat. The regions differed significantly with regard to transfer of radiocaesium to reindeer meat. In two regions in the North of Sweden, where there was less Chernobyl 137Cs, aggregated transfer coefficients (Tag), estimated for the main slaughter period in the first year after the Chernobyl fallout, were low (0.15 and 0.36 m2 kg(-1) in January-April). Average Tag values calculated for the winter period (January-April) in two regions in the middle of Sweden, where deposition from Chernobyl dominated (83 and 94%, respectively, of the total deposition), were 0.78 and 0.84 m2 kg(-1), respectively with a maximum Tag for an individual reindeer of 1.87 m2 kg(-1). There was a threefold increase in Tag values from early autumn to late winter reflecting the change in the reindeer diet from less contaminated vascular plants to more contaminated lichens. The decline of 137Cs in reindeer meat from 1986 to 2000 differed between regions with longer effective half-lives (Tef) in the northerly regions (11.0 and 7.1 years, respectively) with less Chernobyl fallout, and shorter half-lives in the other three regions (3.5-3.8 years). This observation, together with a lack of a decline in early autumn in the region with least Chernobyl fallout, supports the theory of a gradual, but reversible, fixation of radiocaesium in the soil over the mid-long term. The results suggest that both the extent of transfer of 137Cs to reindeer meat, and its subsequent decline with time, are affected by the differing origins of radiocaesium and that previous contamination may substantially influence radiocaesium transfer in the event of a further accident. PMID 11669265 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/11669265/?i=2&from=/15939511/related (bold added for emphasis)

Here is Professor Ahman’s explanation of the state of Reindeer and Caesium in Sweden in 2011 (interview and writing by Ulla Ahlgren):
August 19, 2011: “Traces of Chernobyl remain in reindeer

Several of the 51 reindeer herding districts in Sweden still have to adapt management to reduce the caesium content in reindeer. In total, this costs the Swedish society seven million Swedish crowns per year.

It is mainly the northern herding districts of Jämtland County and the southern districts in Västerbotten County that need to take measures to make sure that reindeer to be slaughtered are below the accepted limit for radiocaesium”, says Professor Birgitta Åhman at SLU.

Countermeasures involve early slaughter in autumn, before the reindeer change to the winter diet, which usually contains a large proportion of ground lichens, and feeding reindeer “clean” feed a couple of weeks before slaughter.

Initially a rapid decline

In April 1986, one of the reactors at Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. “During the first years the caesium content in reindeer rapidly declined. Today the decline is much slower”, says Birgitta Åhman.

An explanation is that the year-to-year decline in reindeer initially followed the decline in Reindeer lichens, the dominating source of caesium intake at the time. Over time, the decline in reindeer has levelled off. The explanation is that, as the levels in lichens have declined other parts of the vegetation have become more important, and that these plants contain radiocaesium that is still circulating between soil and vegetation.

Caesium in reindeer, an old problem

Cesium-137 does not occur naturally in nature, but is created through nuclear fission processes in nuclear power plants or in nuclear bomb explosions. As early as in the late 1950s, researchers measured relatively high levels of cesium-137 among reindeer in Norway – originating from nuclear weapons tests, which resulted in radioactive material being released high up in the atmosphere.

The first scientific articles on elevated caesium levels in reindeer and Sami people in Sweden were published in 1961. At that time, the radiocaesium content in reindeer meat reached 1000 Bq/kg. Prior to the Chernobyl accident the levels had declined to 200–300 Bq/kg.

After the Chernobyl accident the mean value at some slaughters could be 40 000 Bq 137Cs per kg meat. The first year after the accident the food safety level for caesium was 300 Bq/kg and most of the produced meat was discarded. The safety level was later raised to 1500 Bq/kg, and today less than 100 out of the 50 000–75 000 yearly slaughtered reindeer are discarded”, says Birgitta Åhman”. http://www.slu.se/en/collaboration-innovation/knowledge-bank/2011/8/traces-of-chernobyl-remains-in-reindeer/ (Bold added for emphasis)

Sunday 5 January 2013

The following study summarizes the information known about Caesium 137 in the Reindeer of Finland, Sweden and Norway, up to June 2009. It suggests that over time, as might be suspected, effective half-lives give way to the real half-life of caesium 137 (30 years), as the caesium moves more broadly into the environment.

Long-term decline of radiocaesium in Fennoscandian reindeer June 2009
By Lavrans Skuterud, Birgitta Åhman, Dina Solatie and Eldar Gaare

The NKS-B project REIN was established to synthesize the available information on contamination levels and effective half-times for 137Cs in reindeer in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Several studies of radiocaesium contamination in reindeer have been carried out in the Nordic countries over the last 50 years. However, the current slow decline in concentrations, which will maintain the consequences of the Chernobyl deposition for Swedish and Norwegian reindeer husbandry for at least another 10-20 years, have not previously been observed nor predicted. In the Chernobyl affected areas 137Cs concentrations in reindeer initially declined by effective half-times of 3-4 years, whereas the current decline appears to be mainly governed by the nuclide’s physical half-life (30 years).

The review of effective half-times of 137Cs in reindeer across Fennoscandia suggests that concentrations declined more rapidly in the northernmost areas. The reason(-s) remains unclear, and demonstrates the need for more long-term sampling of the various components of reindeer’s diet. Such sampling should aim at covering climatically different areas, as climate may influence transfer of radiocaesium to reindeer via lichen growth and weathering rates, composition of plant communities and lichen availability, as well as soil-to-plant radiocaesium uptake. The lack of long-term data on radiocaesium in natural vegetation in the Nordic countries is one of the main limitations for the development of mechanistic models for radiocaesium in reindeer, and for further elucidation of the observed long-term trends in 137Cs concentrations in reindeer. Currently our understanding of the long-term trends observed in various areas is not good enough to predict how future radiocaesium deposition will behave.

The high transfer of nuclides to reindeer, the geographical extension of reindeer herding and the special position of the Sami population in Finland, Sweden and Norway, demonstrates the need for maintaining competence and further developing the common basis for Nordic fallout management and emergency preparedness related to this food-chain“. http://www.nks.org
http://www.risoe.dk/rispubl/NKS/NKS-193.pdf (full text)
Short summary overview at: http://www.nks.org/download/seminar/2009_jss/JSS_2-3.pdf

We had planned for the above summary study to be the end of this post. However, we have found some other information and think that the importance of this topic warrants further comment on Monday or Tuesday. In the interim we encourage you to read the following web site (and others) about potassium and its importance. As explained at the web site, with the possible exception of small amounts in a multivitamin, you must only take potassium supplements under the supervision of your doctor (We suspect that under the direct supervision of a (good) cardiologist might be better). http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium Most, preferably all, of your potassium must really come from food sources. Potassium is not like most vitamins. Too much would appear as, or almost as, dangerous as too little. You can, however, reduce your sodium (salt) intake, which will help you maintain potassium. Reducing sodium and drinking plenty of (clean) water will also help protect your kidneys, which are important to clean out caesium and other radionuclides. (Note that sodium needs to be reduced, not eliminated. Sodium is also necessary, but found widely). We write this comment because your initial thoughts may be to avoid foods which are high in potassium, because they may also be high in caesium. But, you must have potassium from your food or you die! We hypothesize that when given the choice between caesium and potassium that your body will choose potassium, if it can. If this is true one needs to eat more high potassium foods and not less. We base this hypothesis on old research which suggested that iodine deficiency makes you more likely to pick up radioactive iodine. Additionally, we recently read that potassium is added to farm soil with the idea that the plant will choose the potassium over the caesium. It is critically important to source food and water from as clean a source as possible. However, regardless, you must, must, must have an adequate potassium intake from your food and must drink enough water. The things to avoid would seem non-food items such as chocolate, coffee, tea and spices, and low nutrient food.

We hope that it is clear that, with increasing nuclear pollution, and increasing world population, it will be increasingly difficult, and almost impossible, to source clean food. So, you need to move heaven and earth to stop all nuclear everything, if you like life.

It is evident that new nuclear will not be safer as one might hope. On the contrary, construction at the nuclear plants in Finland and France has been characterized by well-documented shoddy construction (e.g. cracked foundations, improper spacing of rebar, concrete not up to specification and more). Finland may (or may not) have successfully addressed the problems. France has not (e.g. only patching cracked foundation, making it, by definition, weaker).  It also does not solve the problem of nuclear waste.

It is also important to petition your government for more strict food standards and to put pressure-offer help for the best possible handling of Fukushima. We must mention, in passing, that we fear that other nuclear operators are probably leaking more radiation than normal and using Fukushima as a cover.

For your own nutritional needs (or that of your animals), please do your own research and consult your doctor (or vet), as needed. This blog post is not meant as medical or animal husbandry advice. Rather it is to encourage you to think, do research and consult with your doctor, as needed. We hope you start to see the importance of a balanced, nutritional diet, and the potentially life-threatening consequences of caesium replacing potassium and strontium replacing calcium in the food chain. Additionally, of course, there is the problem of being irradiated from within by radionuclides such as caesium and strontium, and risks of genetic damage and cancer.
This post continues here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/radioactive-reindeer-part-ii/