Chernobyl Still Contaminates Food

Radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster still affects food sold in village markets in rural areas of northern Ukraine, Greenpeace campaigners said on Tuesday.

The environmental group published the findings of a small investigation into food purchased from village markets in two administrative regions, Zhytomyr and Rivne.

Tests found caesium 137, a long-lasting radioactive contaminant that accumulates in organisms, which were above permissible levels in many samples of milk, dried mushrooms and berries, they said.

Levels were higher in Rivne region because much of the area has a peaty, waterlogged soil that transmits radioactive particles more easily to plants than other soil types, they said.

The pilot study was led by Iryna Labunska, a Greenpeace scientist at the University of Exeter, southwestern England.

It was released ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe to highlight what Greenpeace said were gaps in surveillance of food in rural regions hit by the radioactive cloud.

“Regular analyses of food (in these regions) stopped two years ago,” said Labunska.

“Caesium 137 still represents a long-term threat to public health. It is absolutely premature of the government to end the monitoring programme.”

Large-scale food production in Ukraine has no problems but the situation is different in poor villages, where farmers may feed their cows on contaminated hay or collect mushrooms and berries which they then sell on stands at a local market.

The Greenpeace study, carried out in March, entailed testing of 114 samples from the two districts and from a third, non-contaminated district which served as a comparison.

Western and southern Ukraine were not affected by fallout from Chernobyl.

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