American honey may contain traces of nuclear fallout from 50s and 60s: study

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(NEXSTAR) – Some American-made honey contains traces of a radioactive isotope — fallout from the nuclear testing of the 1950s and 1960s, a new study says.

The study, published last month in Nature Communications, says there’s a good chance the isotope, called cesium-137, is present in your honey, but it’s in such small amounts, it doesn’t pose a health risk to humans.

“I eat more honey now than I did when I started this project,” said Jim Kaste, the lead author on the study, in a press release. “I feed my kids honey. I’m not trying to tell people they shouldn’t eat honey.”

What he is trying to do is shed light on the ongoing impacts of atom bomb testing during midcentury. Kaste also says his research may “have bearing on the recent collapse in the population of bees and other pollinating insects.”

Most of the radiation produced by nuclear weapon detonation dissipates within a few days, but one of the most abundant fission products, cesium-137, has a radioactive half-life of 30.2 years, the study says.

Cesium-137 is absorbed through the soil into plants, and when a pollinator visits the affected plants, it absorbs a more concentrated version of the radioactive element.

In the case of honey, cesium-137 is transferred from the soil to the honey via pollinators.

“Honey is a useful indicator of atmospherically deposited contaminants and identifying modern pollution ‘hot spots,'” the study says.

The fallout from nuclear testing has well-documented, longstanding impacts. Nuclear testing ended in 1963 after treaties with the Soviet Union took effect.

Kate’s research helps to shed light on the longue duree of the atomic bomb.

“The negative consequences of global nuclear fallout to human health are just recently coming into focus,” the study reads, “but the long-term biogeochemical fate and ecological consequences of radioactive pollution from weapons tests in ecosystems outside the immediate vicinity of test sites is uncertain.”

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